Therapeutic implications of activating noncanonical PIK3CA mutations in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Nan Jin, Bhumsuk Keam, Janice Cho, Michelle J. Lee, Hye Ryun Kim, Hayarpi Torosyan, Natalia Jura, Patrick K.S. Ng, Gordon B. Mills, Hua Li, Yan Zeng, Zohar Barbash, Gabi Tarcic, Hyunseok Kang, Julie E. Bauman, Mi Ok Kim, Nathan K. VanLandingham, Danielle L. Swaney, Nevan J. Krogan, Daniel E. JohnsonJennifer R. Grandis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Alpelisib selectively inhibits the p110α catalytic subunit of PI3Kα and is approved for treatment of breast cancers harboring canonical PIK3CA mutations. In head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), 63% of PIK3CA mutations occur at canonical hotspots. The oncogenic role of the remaining 37% of PIK3CA noncanonical mutations is incompletely understood. We report a patient with HNSCC with a noncanonical PIK3CA mutation (Q75E) who exhibited a durable (12 months) response to alpelisib in a phase II clinical trial. Characterization of all 32 noncanonical PIK3CA mutations found in HNSCC using several functional and phenotypic assays revealed that the majority (69%) were activating, including Q75E. The oncogenic impact of these mutations was validated in 4 cellular models, demonstrating that their activity was lineage independent. Further, alpelisib exhibited antitumor effects in a xenograft derived from a patient with HNSCC containing an activating noncanonical PIK3CA mutation. Structural analyses revealed plausible mechanisms for the functional phenotypes of the majority of the noncanonical PIK3CA mutations. Collectively, these findings highlight the importance of characterizing the function of noncanonical PIK3CA mutations and suggest that patients with HNSCC whose tumors harbor activating noncanonical PIK3CA mutations may benefit from treatment with PI3Kα inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere150335
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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