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Oncologist. 2011;16 Suppl 1:12-9. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2011-S1-12.

Targeting the phosphoinositide-3 (PI3) kinase pathway in breast cancer.

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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) pathway has been identified as an important target in breast cancer research for a number of years, but is new to most clinicians responsible for the daily challenges of breast cancer management. In fact, the PI3K pathway is probably one of the most important pathways in cancer metabolism and growth. Mutations in the PI3K pathway are frequent in breast cancer, causing resistance to human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-targeted agents and, possibly, to hormonal agents as well. Available agents that affect the PI3K pathway include monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors, as well as PI3K inhibitors, Akt inhibitors, rapamycin analogs, and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) catalytic inhibitors. Multiple PI3K inhibitors are currently under development, including pure PI3K inhibitors, compounds that block both PI3K and mTOR (dual inhibitors), pure catalytic mTOR inhibitors, and inhibitors that block Akt. It is likely that these agents will have to be given in combination with other signal inhibitors because anti-mTOR agents and PI3K inhibitors may result in the activation of compensatory feedback loops that would in turn result in decreased efficacy. This article reviews current data related to the PI3K pathway, its role in breast cancer, the frequency with which PI3K is aberrant in breast cancer, and the potential clinical implications of using agents that target the PI3K pathway.

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