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Open Access Open Badges Research article

PIK3CA mutations are frequently observed in BRCAX but not BRCA2 -associated male breast cancer

Siddhartha Deb12*, Hongdo Do1, David Byrne1, Nicholas Jene1, kConFab Investigators3, Alexander Dobrovic12 and Stephen B Fox12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, VIC 3002, Australia

2 Department of Pathology and the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia

3 Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for research into Familial Breast Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, VIC 3002, Australia

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Breast Cancer Research 2013, 15:R69  doi:10.1186/bcr3463

Published: 23 August 2013



Although a substantial proportion of male breast cancers (MBCs) are hereditary, the molecular pathways that are activated are unknown. We therefore examined the frequency and clinicopathological associations of the PIK3CA/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways and their regulatory genes in familial MBC.


High resolution melting analysis and confirmatory sequencing was used to determine the presence of somatic mutations in PIK3CA (exon 9 and 20), AKT1 (exon 4), KRAS (exon 2) and BRAF (exon 15) genes in 57 familial MBCs. Further analysis of the PIK3CA/mTOR pathway was performed using immunohistochemistry for the pAKT1, pS6 and p4EBP1 biomarkers.


PIK3CA somatic mutations were identified in 10.5% (6 of 57) of cases; there were no AKT1, KRAS or BRAF somatic mutations. PIK3CA mutations were significantly more frequent in cancers from BRCAX patients (17.2%, 5/29) than BRCA2 (0%, 0/25) carriers (P = 0.030). Two BRCAX patients had an E547K mutation which has only been reported in one female breast cancer previously. PIK3CA mutation was significantly correlated with positive pS6 (83.3% vs. 32.0%, P = 0.024) and negative p4EBP1 (100% vs. 38.0%, P = 0.006) expression, but not pAKT expression. Expression of nuclear p4EBP1 correlated with BRCA2 mutation carrier status (68.0% vs. 38.7%, P = 0.035).


Somatic PIK3CA mutation is present in familial male breast cancer but absent in BRCA2 carriers. The presence of two of the extremely rare E547K PIK3CA mutations in our cohort may have specific relevance in MBCs. Further study of PIK3CA in MBCs, and in particular BRCAX patients, may contribute to further establishing the relevance of specific PIK3CA mutations in MBC aetiology and in the identification of particular patient groups most likely to benefit from therapeutic targeting with the novel PIK3CA inhibitors that are currently in development.

PIK3CA; E547K; mTOR; familial; male breast cancer; BRCA2; BRCAX