Somatic loss of PIK3R1 may sensitize breast cancer to inhibitors of the MAPK pathway

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Purpose: The PI3K pathway, which includes the PI3K catalytic subunits p110α (PIK3CA) and the PI3K regulatory subunit p85α (PIK3R1), is the most frequently altered pathway in cancer. We encountered a breast cancer patient whose tumor contained a somatic alteration in PIK3R1. Some commercial sequencing platforms suggest that somatic mutations in PIK3R1 may sensitize cancers to drugs that inhibit the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). However, a review of the preclinical and clinical literature did not find evidence substantiating that hypothesis. The purpose of this study was to knock out PIK3R1 in order to determine the optimal therapeutic approach for breast cancers lacking p85α. Methods: We created an isogenic cellular system by knocking out both alleles of the PIK3R1 gene in the non-tumorigenic human breast cell line MCF-10A. Knockout cells were compared with wild-type cells by measuring growth, cellular signaling, and response to drugs. Results: We observed hyperphosphorylation of MEK in these knockouts, which sensitized PIK3R1-null cells to a MEK inhibitor, trametinib. However, they were not sensitized to the mTOR inhibitor, everolimus. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that breast cancers with loss of p85α may not respond to mTOR inhibition, but may be sensitive to MEK inhibition.

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