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Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Jul 15;15(14):4649-64. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-0317. Epub 2009 Jun 30.

In vivo antitumor activity of MEK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitors in basal-like breast cancer models.

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Translational Oncology, Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, California 94080, USA.



The pathways underlying basal-like breast cancer are poorly understood, and as yet, there is no approved targeted therapy for this disease. We investigated the role of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors as targeted therapies for basal-like breast cancer.


We used pharmacogenomic analysis of a large panel of breast cancer cell lines with detailed accompanying molecular information to identify molecular predictors of response to a potent and selective inhibitor of MEK and also to define molecular mechanisms underlying combined MEK and PI3K targeting in basal-like breast cancer. Hypotheses were confirmed by testing in multiple tumor xenograft models.


We found that basal-like breast cancer models have an activated RAS-like transcriptional program and show greater sensitivity to a selective inhibitor of MEK compared with models representative of other breast cancer subtypes. We also showed that loss of PTEN is a negative predictor of response to MEK inhibition, that treatment with a selective MEK inhibitor caused up-regulation of PI3K pathway signaling, and that dual blockade of both PI3K and MEK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling synergized to potently impair the growth of basal-like breast cancer models in vitro and in vivo.


Our studies suggest that single-agent MEK inhibition is a promising therapeutic modality for basal-like breast cancers with intact PTEN, and also provide a basis for rational combination of MEK and PI3K inhibitors in basal-like cancers with both intact and deleted PTEN.

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