The phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3-kinase)-Akt-mTOR pathway is a central signal transduction pathway that regulates many critical aspects of normal and cancer physiology, including cell proliferation, apoptosis, cell morphology and migration, protein synthesis, and integration of metabolism. In breast cancer, somatic mutations that activate the pathway occur in more than 50% of tumors, underscoring the potentially broad impact of targeting the pathway for therapy. A vast body of preclinical data demonstrates the efficacy of pathway inhibition on tumor growth, and evidence also shows that activation of the pathway occurs in models of acquired resistance to hormonal therapy. This preclinical work led to the investigation of allosteric mTOR inhibitors, everolimus and temsirolimus, in metastatic hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. The recent BOLERO-2 trial comparing everolimus plus exemestane versus placebo plus exemestane in women with resistance to nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors demonstrated a 6-month improvement in progression-free survival and led to FDA approval of everolimus for this indication in the United States. This landmark trial is the first demonstration of significant clinical benefit using drugs targeting this pathway in breast cancer. Many questions remain about the role of everolimus and other pathway-targeting drugs in clinical development in breast cancer treatment. This article reviews the role of the PI3-kinase-Akt-mTOR pathway in breast cancer biology and the clinical trial evidence available to date.
Correspondence: Josh Lauring, MD, PhD, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, CRB 1 Room 146, 1650 Orleans Street, Baltimore, MD 21287. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org