Alterations in the PI3K/AKT Signaling Pathway and Response to Adjuvant Treatment in Breast Cancer

University dissertation from Link : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathway could be a cause of therapeutic resistance in breast cancer. The PI3K/AKT pathway controls cell proliferation, cell growth and survival, and its members include oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Alterations in this pathway are frequent in cancer. In this thesis, we aimed to study the biological significance of some of these alterations in a tumor context as well as their clinical value. PIK3CA gene, encoding the PI3K catalytic subunit, was examined for mutations. The tumor suppressor PTEN, that counteracts PI3Kmediated effects, was studied at the protein level whereas amplification of RPS6KB1 (S6K1) and RPS6KB2 (S6K2) genes, encoding two substrates of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) acting downstream PI3K/AKT, was also inspected. AKT phosphorylation or activation (pAKT) was determined by immunohistochemistry. Other factors related with this pathway, such as HER-2, heregulin (HRG) ?1, the cell cycle inhibitor p21WAF1/CIP1, the pro-apoptotic factor Bcl-2, and cyclin D1,  were also considered. These studies were perfomed in two patient materials consisting of premenopausal patients that received endocrine treatment (paper I) and postmenopausal patients randomized to receive radiotherapy (RT) or chemotherapy (CMF) in combination with tamoxifen (Tam) or no endocrine treatment (papers II-IV). In the first material, we found that pAKT indicated higher risk of distant recurrence among endocrine treated patients. In the second material HRG?1 induced accumulation cytoplasmic p21 in vitro and pAKT was associated with cytoplasmic p21 in the tumors. In addition, p21 cellular location identified subgroups of ER+ patients with different responses to tamoxifen. Other alterations such as PIK3CA mutations and PTEN loss were positively associated in this material. PIK3CA mutations lowered the risk for local recurrences while PTEN loss conferred radiosensitivity as a single variable or combined with mutated PIK3CA. PIK3CA mutations and/or PTEN loss was associated with lower S-phase (SPF). Nevertheless, among patients with low proliferating tumors, these alterations predicted higher risk of recurrence in contrast to those with high proliferating tumors. Finally, we found amplification of the S6K1 and S6K2 genes. S6K2 amplification was associated with cyclin D1 gene amplification, predicted poor recurrence-free survival and breast cancer death, and indicated benefit from tamoxifen. On the other hand, S6K1 amplification was associated with HER-2 amplification/overexpression, indicated higher risk of recurrence and was a predictor of poor response to radiotherapy. These results indicate the potential of this pathway as therapeutic source.