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Ann Oncol. 2004 Oct;15(10):1510-6.

Reduced PTEN expression in breast cancer cells confers susceptibility to inhibitors of the PI3 kinase/Akt pathway.

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  • 1University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA.


The PTEN protein is a lipid phosphatase with putative tumor suppressing abilities, including inhibition of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. Inactivating mutations or deletions of the PTEN gene, which result in hyper-activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway, are increasingly being reported in human malignancies, including breast cancer, and have been related to features of poor prognosis and resistance to chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Prior studies in different tumor models have shown that, under conditions of PTEN deficiency, the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway becomes a fundamental proliferative and survival pathway, and that pharmacological inhibition of this pathway results in tumor growth inhibition. This study aimed to explore further this hypothesis in breast cancer cells. To this end, we have determined the growth response to inhibition of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway in a series of breast cancer cell lines with different PTEN levels. The PTEN-negative cell line displayed greater sensitivity to the growth inhibitory effects of the PI3K inhibitor, LY294002 and rapamycin, an inhibitor of the PI3K/Akt downstream mediator mTOR, compared with the PTEN-positive cell lines. To determine whether or not these differences in response are specifically due to effects of PTEN, we developed a series of cell lines with reduced PTEN protein expression compared with the parental cell line. These reduced PTEN cells demonstrated an increased sensitivity to the anti-proliferative effects induced by LY294002 and rapamycin compared with the parental cells, which corresponded to alterations in cell cycle response. These findings indicate that inhibitors of mTOR, some of which are already in clinical development (CCI-779, an ester of rapamycin), have the potential to be effective in the treatment of breast cancer patients with PTEN-negative tumors and should be evaluated in this setting.

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