The PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway alterations have been shown to play significant roles in the development, progression, and metastatic spread of breast cancer. Furthermore, they have been implicated in the process of drug resistance, especially endocrinal therapies. In this study, we aimed to define the correlation between the PI3K mutations and the expression of the phosphorylated forms of different downstream molecules in women with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative (luminal) early breast cancer treated at Cairo university hospitals.
Next-generation sequencing was used to detect mutations in the PIK3CA hotspots (in exons 9 and 20). Immunohistochemistry was performed on tissue microarray blocks prepared from samples of 35 Egyptian luminal breast cancer patients in the pathology department of Centre Léon Bérard (CLB). The intensity and the percentage of stained tumor cells were integrated to define high versus low biomarker expression. The cytoplasmic and nuclear stainings were graded separately. Patients were followed for a median of 4.7 years (2.1 to 6.9 years). Correlation was done between PI3K mutations and the immunohistochemistry expression of pAKT, LKB1, p4EBP1, and pS6 ribosomal protein (pS6RP) with the clinicopathologic features and disease free survival (DFS) of the patients.
Median age at diagnosis was 51.3 years (range, 25 to 82 years). Tumors were larger than 20 mm in 79.2% of the cases, whereas 57.9% had axillary lymph node deposits. Only 12.3% of the patients had SBR grade I tumors, 50.8% had grade II, and 36.8% had grade III. ERs were negative in 6 patients (17%) after pathology review. Thirty-two cases were assessable for LKB1 and pAKT, 33 for p4EBP1 and pS6RP, and 24 for PI3K mutations. Nuclear LKB1, cytoplasmic LKB1, nuclear pAKT, cytoplasmic pAKT, nuclear p4EBP1, and cytoplasmic pS6RP expression was high in 65.6%, 62.5%, 62.5%, 68.8%, 42.4%, and 57.6%, respectively. PIK3CA mutations were found in 7 patients (29.2%). PI3K mutations were correlated with nuclear localization of pAKT (i.e., decreased cytoplasmic pAKT, P = .04; and increased nuclear pAKT, P = .10). There was a tendency toward an inverse correlation between PI3K mutations and the expression of pS6RP (P = .10) and p4EBP1 (P = .19). Nuclear LKB1 expression was a marker of good prognosis. It was associated with smaller tumors (P = .05), more ER (P = .08) and progesteron receptor (PgR) positivity (P = .002). In the Kaplan Meier (KM) model, patients with high nuclear LKB1 had longer DFS (hazard ratio = 0.36; 95% confidence interval, 0.15-1.10; P = .08). Nuclear pAKT high expression also carried a tendency toward longer DFS (hazard ratio = 0.51; 95% confidence interval, 0.11-1.16; P = .13). The expression of p4EBP1, pS6RP, and the PI3K mutational status did not show any prognostic significance in our cohort.
Among the studied biomarkers, only nuclear expression of LKB1 and pAKT tended to predict better survival in breast cancer patients. PI3K mutation was correlated with the expression of nuclear pAKT but not pS6RP or p4EBP1.
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