Introduction: Activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) and/or mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways results in anti-estrogen resistance in vitro, but a biomarker with clinical validity to predict intrinsic resistance has not been identified. In metastatic breast cancer patients with previous exposure to endocrine therapy, the addition of a mammalian target of rapamycine (mTOR) inhibitor has been shown to be beneficial. Whether or not patients on adjuvant endocrine treatment might benefit from these drugs is currently unclear. A biomarker that predicts intrinsic resistance could potentially be used as companion diagnostic in this setting. We tested the clinical validity of different downstream-activated proteins in the PI3K and/or MAPK pathways to predict intrinsic tamoxifen resistance in postmenopausal primary breast cancer patients.Methods: We recollected primary tumor tissue from patients who participated in a randomized trial of adjuvant tamoxifen (1-3 years) versus observation. After constructing a tissue micro-array, cores from 563 estrogen receptor α positive were immunostained for p-AKT(Thr308), p-AKT(Ser473), p-mTOR, p-p706SK and p-ERK1/2. Cox proportional hazard models for recurrence free interval were used to assess hazard ratios and interactions between these markers and tamoxifen treatment efficacy.Results: Interactions were identified between tamoxifen and p-AKT(Thr308), p-mTOR, p-p70S6K and p-ERK1/2. Applying a conservative level of significance, p-p70S6K remained significantly associated with tamoxifen resistance. Patients with p-p70S6K negative tumors derived significant benefit from tamoxifen (HR 0.24, P < 0.0001), while patients whose tumor did express p-p70S6K did not (HR = 1.02, P =0.95), P for interaction 0.004. In systemically untreated breast cancer patients, p-p70S6K was associated with a decreased risk for recurrence.Conclusions: Patients whose tumor expresses p-p70S6K, as a marker of downstream PI3K and/or MAPK pathway activation, have a favorable prognosis, but do not benefit from adjuvant tamoxifen. A potential benefit from inhibitors of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway in these patients needs to be further explored.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research