Research ArticleCancer

Antagonism of EGFR and HER3 Enhances the Response to Inhibitors of the PI3K-Akt Pathway in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Sci. Signal.  25 Mar 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 318, pp. ra29
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005125

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From Models to Breast Cancer Treatments

Patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a particularly aggressive form, have few treatment options. Targeting either the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase to Akt (PI3K-Akt) pathway or epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibits tumor growth in some patients, but durable responses are rare. Modeling studies using cell lines predict that the EGFR family member HER3 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 3) may confer drug resistance. Now, Tao et al. provide evidence from patient tumors to support those predictions. Treatment with PI3K-Akt pathway inhibitors increased the abundance of both total and activated HER3 in TNBC cells in culture and TNBC xenografts in mice. Residual tumors from patients treated with EGFR inhibitors had increased abundance and activation of HER3. Combining inhibitors of the PI3K-Akt pathway with a dual inhibitor of EGFR and HER3 substantially suppressed tumor growth in mice with TNBC xenografts derived from either cell lines or patients, suggesting that this combined strategy may improve therapeutic outcome in TNBC patients.