, Volume 138, Issue 2, pp 369-381,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

PI3K/mTOR inhibition can impair tumor invasion and metastasis in vivo despite a lack of antiproliferative action in vitro: implications for targeted therapy

Abstract

Oncogenic PI3K/mTOR activation is frequently observed in human cancers and activates cell motility via p27 phosphorylations at T157 and T198. Here we explored the potential for a novel PI3K/mTOR inhibitor to inhibit tumor invasion and metastasis. An MDA-MB-231 breast cancer line variant, MDA-MB-231-1833, with high metastatic bone tropism, was treated with a novel catalytic PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, PF-04691502, at nM doses that did not impair proliferation. Effects on tumor cell motility, invasion, p27 phosphorylation, localization, and bone metastatic outgrowth were assayed. MDA-MB-231-1833 showed increased PI3K/mTOR activation, high levels of cytoplasmic p27pT157pT198 and increased cell motility and invasion in vitro versus parental. PF-04691502 treatment, at a dose that did not affect proliferation, reduced total and cytoplasmic p27, decreased p27pT157pT198 and restored cell motility and invasion to levels seen in MDA-MB-231. p27 knockdown in MDA-MB-231-1833 phenocopied PI3K/mTOR inhibition, whilst overexpression of the phosphomimetic mutant p27T157DT198D caused resistance to the anti-invasive effects of PF-04691502. Pre-treatment of MDA-MB-231-1833 with PF-04691502 significantly impaired metastatic tumor formation in vivo, despite lack of antiproliferative effects in culture and little effect on primary orthotopic tumor growth. A further link between cytoplasmic p27 and metastasis was provided by a study of primary human breast cancers which showed cytoplasmic p27 is associated with increased lymph nodal metastasis and reduced survival. Novel PI3K/mTOR inhibitors may oppose tumor metastasis independent of their growth inhibitory effects, providing a rationale for clinical investigation of PI3K/mTOR inhibitors in settings to prevent micrometastasis. In primary human breast cancers, cytoplasmic p27 is associated with worse outcomes and increased nodal metastasis, and may prove useful as a marker of both PI3K/mTOR activation and PI3K/mTOR inhibitor efficacy.