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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 2;105(35):13057-62. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0802655105. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

PTEN-deficient cancers depend on PIK3CB.

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  • 1Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Deregulation of the PI3K signaling pathway is observed in many human cancers and occurs most frequently through loss of PTEN phosphatase tumor suppressor function or through somatic activating mutations in the Class IA PI3K, PIK3CA. Tumors harboring activated p110alpha, the protein product of PIK3CA, require p110alpha activity for growth and survival and hence are expected to be responsive to inhibitors of its lipid kinase activity. Whether PTEN-deficient cancers similarly depend on p110alpha activity to sustain activation of the PI3K pathway has been unclear. In this study, we used a single-vector lentiviral inducible shRNA system to selectively inactivate the three Class IA PI3Ks, PIK3CA, PIK3CB, and PIK3CD, to determine which PI3K isoforms are responsible for driving the abnormal proliferation of PTEN-deficient cancers. Down-regulation of PIK3CA in colorectal cancer cells harboring mutations in PIK3CA inhibited downstream PI3K signaling and cell growth. Surprisingly, PIK3CA depletion affected neither PI3K signaling nor cell growth in 3 PTEN-deficient cancer cell lines. In contrast, down-regulation of the PIK3CB isoform, which encodes p110beta, resulted in pathway inactivation and subsequent inhibition of growth in both cell-based and in vivo settings. This essential function of PIK3CB in PTEN-deficient cancer cells required its lipid kinase activity. Our findings demonstrate that although p110alpha activation is required to sustain the proliferation of established PIK3CA-mutant tumors, PTEN-deficient tumors are dependent instead on p110beta signaling. This unexpected finding demonstrates the need to tailor therapeutic approaches to the genetic basis of PI3K pathway activation to achieve optimal treatment response.

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