Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Up to 75% of breast cancers express the estrogen receptor (ER) and/or the progesterone receptor (PR). Patients with hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer are typically treated with endocrine therapy. Yet, not all patients with metastatic breast cancer respond to endocrine treatments and are considered to have primary (de novo) resistance. Furthermore, all patients who initially respond to endocrine treatment will eventually develop acquired resistance. Several mechanisms have been linked to the development of endocrine resistance, including reduced expression of ER, altered regulation of the ER pathway, and activation of various growth factor signaling pathways, among them the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway. This pathway is involved in critical processes including cell survival, proliferation, and angiogenesis, and plays a central role in breast cancer development. Recent laboratory and clinical data implicate this pathway as mediating endocrine resistance, and agents directed against critical components of this pathway are either already approved for clinical use in breast cancer patients or are currently being tested in clinical trials. In this review, we describe the interaction between the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway and the ER cascade, its role in mediating endocrine resistance, and the clinical implications of this interaction.
- Endocrine resistance
- Estrogen receptor
- Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer
- PI3K/mTOR pathway