Optimizing Precision Medicine for Breast Cancer Brain Metastases with Functional Drug Response Assessment

Cancer Res Commun. 2023 Jun 21;3(6):1093-1103. doi: 10.1158/2767-9764.CRC-22-0492. eCollection 2023 Jun.


The development of novel therapies for brain metastases is an unmet need. Brain metastases may have unique molecular features that could be explored as therapeutic targets. A better understanding of the drug sensitivity of live cells coupled to molecular analyses will lead to a rational prioritization of therapeutic candidates. We evaluated the molecular profiles of 12 breast cancer brain metastases (BCBM) and matched primary breast tumors to identify potential therapeutic targets. We established six novel patient-derived xenograft (PDX) from BCBM from patients undergoing clinically indicated surgical resection of BCBM and used the PDXs as a drug screening platform to interrogate potential molecular targets. Many of the alterations were conserved in brain metastases compared with the matched primary. We observed differential expressions in the immune-related and metabolism pathways. The PDXs from BCBM captured the potentially targetable molecular alterations in the source brain metastases tumor. The alterations in the PI3K pathway were the most predictive for drug efficacy in the PDXs. The PDXs were also treated with a panel of over 350 drugs and demonstrated high sensitivity to histone deacetylase and proteasome inhibitors. Our study revealed significant differences between the paired BCBM and primary breast tumors with the pathways involved in metabolisms and immune functions. While molecular targeted drug therapy based on genomic profiling of tumors is currently evaluated in clinical trials for patients with brain metastases, a functional precision medicine strategy may complement such an approach by expanding potential therapeutic options, even for BCBM without known targetable molecular alterations.

Significance: Examining genomic alterations and differentially expressed pathways in brain metastases may inform future therapeutic strategies. This study supports genomically-guided therapy for BCBM and further investigation into incorporating real-time functional evaluation will increase confidence in efficacy estimations during drug development and predictive biomarker assessment for BCBM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / therapeutic use
  • Precision Medicine


  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases