AKT/mTOR signaling modulates resistance to endocrine therapy and CDK4/6 inhibition in metastatic breast cancers

Maysa M. Abu-Khalaf, K. Alex Hodge, Christos Hatzis, Elisa Baldelli, Emna El Gazzah, Frances Valdes, William M. Sikov, Monica M. Mita, Neelima Denduluri, Rita Murphy, Daniel Zelterman, Lance Liotta, Bryant Dunetz, Rick Dunetz, Emanuel F. Petricoin, Mariaelena Pierobon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Endocrine therapy (ET) in combination with CDK4/6 inhibition is routinely used as first-line treatment for HR+/HER2− metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients. However, 30–40% of patients quickly develop disease progression. In this open-label multicenter clinical trial, we utilized a hypothesis-driven protein/phosphoprotein-based approach to identify predictive markers of response to ET plus CDK4/6 inhibition in pre-treatment tissue biopsies. Pathway-centered signaling profiles were generated from microdissected tumor epithelia and surrounding stroma/immune cells using the reverse phase protein microarray. Phosphorylation levels of the CDK4/6 downstream substrates Rb (S780) and FoxM1 (T600) were higher in patients with progressive disease (PD) compared to responders (p = 0.02). Systemic PI3K/AKT/mTOR activation in tumor epithelia and stroma/immune cells was detected in patients with PD. This activation was not explained by underpinning genomic alterations alone. As the number of FDA-approved targeted compounds increases, functional protein-based signaling analyses may become a critical component of response prediction and treatment selection for MBC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Journalnpj Precision Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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