Clinical and Translational Oncology

, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 455–459 | Cite as

mTOR inhibitors and the anti-diabetic biguanide metformin: new insights into the molecular management of breast cancer resistance to the HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib (Tykerb®)

  • Alejandro Vázquez-Martín
  • Cristina Oliveras-Ferraros
  • Sonia del Barco
  • Begoña Martín-Castillo
  • Javier A. MenéndezEmail author
Special Article


The small molecule HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) lapatinib (Tykerb®) is approved for the therapy of patients with HER2-positive breast carcinomas who have progressed on trastuzumab (Herceptin®). Unfortunately, the efficacy of this HER2 TKI is limited by both primary (inherent) and acquired resistance, the latter typically occurring within 12 months of starting therapy. One of the key factors limiting our understanding of the mechanisms involved in lapatinib resistance is the lack of published preclinical models. We herein review lapatinib-refractory models recently developed at the bench and the survival pathways discovered. As hyperactivation of the pharmacologically targetable PI3K/mTOR/p70S6K1 axis appears to be central to the occurrence of lapatinib resistance, preclinical data showing enhanced antitumour effects when combining lapatinib with mTOR inhibitors (e.g., rapamycin analogues and NVP-BEZ235) highlight the importance of translational work to yield clinically useful regimens capable of delaying or treating lapatinib resistance. The unexpected ability of the anti-type II diabetes drug metformin to inactivate mTOR and decrease p70S6K1 activity further reveals that this biguanide, generally considered non-toxic and remarkably inexpensive, might be considered for new combinatorial lapatinib-based protocols in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer patients.


HER2 Tyrosine kinase inhibitors mTOR Rapamycin Lapatinib Metformin Vreast cancer 


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Copyright information

© Feseo 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro Vázquez-Martín
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cristina Oliveras-Ferraros
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sonia del Barco
    • 1
    • 2
  • Begoña Martín-Castillo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Javier A. Menéndez
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO)GironaSpain
  2. 2.Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IdIBGi)Dr. Josep Trueta University Hospital of GironaGironaSpain

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