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Oncologist. 2019 Mar;24(3):305-312. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2018-0314. Epub 2019 Jan 16.

Exploring Biomarkers of Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase Pathway Activation in the Treatment of Hormone Receptor Positive, Human Epidermal Growth Receptor 2 Negative Advanced Breast Cancer.

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University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.


Resistance to endocrine therapy (ET) is common in patients with hormone receptor positive (HR+) advanced breast cancer (ABC). Consequently, new targeted treatment options are needed in the post-ET setting, with validated biomarkers to inform treatment decisions. Hyperactivation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway is common in ABC and is implicated in resistance to ET. The most frequent mechanism of PI3K pathway activation is activating mutations or amplification of PIK3CA, which encodes the α-isoform of the catalytic subunit of PI3K. Combining buparlisib, a pan-PI3K-targeted agent, with ET demonstrated modest clinical benefits in patients with aromatase inhibitor-resistant, HR+, human epidermal growth receptor 2 negative (HER2-) ABC in two phase III trials. Importantly, greater efficacy gains were observed in individuals with PIK3CA-mutated disease versus PIK3CA-wild-type tumors. Although the challenging safety profile did not support widespread use of this treatment combination, isoform-selective PI3K inhibitors may improve tolerability. In early clinical trials, promising disease control benefits were demonstrated with the PI3K isoform-selective inhibitors alpelisib and taselisib in patients with PIK3CA-mutated HR+, HER2- ABC. Ongoing biomarker-guided phase II/III studies may provide further opportunities to identify patients most likely to benefit from treatment with PI3K inhibitors and provide insight into optimizing the therapeutic index of PI3K inhibitors. Challenges facing the implementation of routine PIK3CA mutation testing must be addressed promptly so robust and reproducible genotyping can be obtained with liquid and tumor biopsies in a timely and cost-effective manner. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The development of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors, especially those that selectively target isoforms, may be an effective strategy for overcoming endocrine therapy resistance in hormone receptor positive, human epidermal growth receptor 2 negative advanced breast cancer. Early-phase studies have confirmed that patients with PIK3CA mutations respond best to PI3Kα-isoform inhibition. Ongoing phase III trials will provide further data regarding the efficacy and safety of PI3K inhibitors in patients with different biomarker profiles.


Alpelisib; Breast neoplasms; Buparlisib; Molecular targeted therapy; PIK3CA protein, human; Taselisib

[Available on 2020-03-01]
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Disclosures of potential conflicts of interest may be found at the end of this article.

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