Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring malignancy and the leading cause of cancer-related death in women. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype and is associated with high recurrence rates, high incidence of distant metastases, and poor overall survival. The aim of this study was to investigate the PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR pathway as one of the most frequently deregulated pathways in cancer. We aimed to explore the impact of PI3K and mTOR oncogenes as well as the PTEN tumor suppressor on TNBC clinical behavior, prognosis, and multidrug resistance (MDR), using immunohistochemistry and copy number analysis by quantitative real-time PCR. Our results revealed that loss of PTEN and high expression of PI3K and mTOR proteins are associated with poor outcome of TNBC patients. PTEN deletions appeared as a major cause of reduced or absent PTEN expression in TNBC. Importantly, homozygous deletions of PTEN (and not hemizygous deletions) are a potential molecular marker of metastasis formation and good predictors of TNBC outcome. In conclusion, we believe that concurrent examination of PTEN/PI3K/mTOR protein expression may be more useful in predicting TNBC clinical course than the analysis of single protein expression. Specifically, our results showed that PTEN-reduced/PI3K-high/mTOR-high expression constitutes a 'high risk' profile of TNBC.
Keywords: ABCB1; ABCC1; ABCG2; PI3K; PTEN; gene deletions; mTOR; multidrug resistance; protein expression; triple-negative breast cancer.