In metastatic breast cancer, HER2-activating mutations frequently co-occur with mutations in PIK3CA, TP53, or CDH1. Of these co-occurring mutations, HER2 and PIK3CA are the most commonly comutated gene pair, with approximately 40% of HER2-mutated breast cancers also having activating mutations in PIK3CA. To study the effects of co-occurring HER2 and PIK3CA mutations, we generated genetically engineered mice with the HER2V777L; PIK3CAH1047R transgenes (HP mice) and studied the resulting breast cancers both in vivo as well as ex vivo using cancer organoids. HP breast cancers showed accelerated tumor formation in vivo and increased invasion and migration in in vitro assays. HP breast cancer cells were resistant to the pan-HER tyrosine kinase inhibitor, neratinib, but were effectively treated with neratinib plus the HER2-targeted antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab deruxtecan. Proteomic and RNA-seq analysis of HP breast cancers identified increased gene expression of cyclin D1 and p21WAF1/Cip1 and changes in cell-cycle markers. Combining neratinib with CDK4/6 inhibitors was another effective strategy for treating HP breast cancers, with neratinib plus palbociclib showing a statistically significant reduction in development of mouse HP tumors as compared to either drug alone. The efficacy of both the neratinib plus trastuzumab deruxtecan and neratinib plus palbociclib combinations was validated using a human breast cancer patient-derived xenograft with very similar HER2 and PIK3CA mutations to the HP mice. Further, these two drug combinations effectively treated spontaneous lung metastasis in syngeneic mice transplanted with HP breast cancer organoids. This study provides valuable preclinical data to support the ongoing phase 1 clinical trials of these drug combinations in breast cancer.


In HER2-mutated breast cancer, PIK3CA mutation activates p21–CDK4/6–cyclin D1 signaling to drive resistance to HER2-targeted therapies, which can be overcome using CDK4/6 inhibitors.

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