PIK3CAH1047R - and Her2-initiated mammary tumors escape PI3K dependency by compensatory activation of MEK-ERK signaling

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Human breast cancers that have HER2 amplification/overexpression frequently carry PIK3CA mutations, and are often associated with a worse prognosis. However, the role of PIK3CA mutations in the initiation and maintenance of these breast cancers remains elusive. In the present study, we generated a compound mouse model that genetically mimics HER2-positive breast cancer with coexisting PIK3CAH1047R. Induction of PIK3CAH1047R expression in mouse mammary glands with constitutive expression of activated Her2/Neu resulted in accelerated mammary tumorigenesis with enhanced metastatic potential. Interestingly, inducible expression of mutant PIK3CA resulted in a robust activation of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling but attenuation of Her2/Her3 signaling, and this can be reversed by deinduction of PIK3CAH1047R expression. Strikingly, although these Her2+ PIK3CAH1047R-initiated primary mammary tumors are refractory to HER2-targeted therapy, all tumors responded to inactivation of the oncogenic PIK3CAH1047R, a situation closely mimicking the use of a highly effective inhibitor specifically targeting the mutant PIK3CA/p110a. Notably, these tumors eventually resumed growth, and a fraction of them escaped PI3K dependence by compensatory ERK activation, which can be blocked by combined inhibition of Her2 and MEK. Together, these results suggest that PIK3CA-specific inhibition as a monotherapy followed by combination therapy targeting MAPK and HER2 in a timely manner may be an effective treatment approach against HER2-positive cancers with coexisting PIK3CA-activating mutations.

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