The Landscape of PIK3CA Mutations in Colorectal Cancer

  • Ioannis A. Voutsadakis
    Address for Correspondence: Ioannis A. Voutsadakis, MD, PhD, Algoma District Cancer Program, Sault Area Hospital, 750 Great Northern Road, Sault Ste Marie, ON P6B 0A8, Canada.
    Algoma District Cancer Program, Sault Area Hospital, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; and Section of Internal Medicine, Division of Clinical Sciences, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
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Published:February 18, 2021DOI:



      Colorectal cancer is one of the most common malignancies in both men and women. Despite progress in the treatment of the disease, metastatic colorectal cancer remains lethal with a median survival slightly surpassing 2 years and commonly for some cases a more aggressive course. New therapies are urgently needed based on a better understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of the disease.


      The focus of this investigation is the PIK3CA gene, encoding the alpha catalytic subunit of the enzyme phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K). Publicly available data from 3 extensive published series of colorectal carcinomas were analyzed to define the molecular landscape of colorectal adenocarcinomas with and without mutations of PIK3CA. An analysis for discovery of associations with alterations in other critical genes and pathways involved in colorectal cancer was performed. The total mutation burden (TMB) and copy number alteration burden of colorectal cancers with and without mutations of PIK3CA, as well as prognostic implications of alterations of the gene for survival, were examined.


      Mutations in PIK3CA are observed in 20% to 25% of colorectal cancers. PIK3CA represents one of the most frequently mutated oncogenes in these cancers. Mutations in PIK3CA are associated with higher rates of mutations in other genes of important cancer-associated pathways such as the tyrosine kinase receptors/K-Ras/BRAF/MAPK and the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. In addition, PIK3CA mutated colorectal cancers display a higher TMB than nonmutated cancers.


      Frequent mutations of PIK3CA gene in colorectal carcinomas may represent an opportunity for targeted therapy combination development inhibiting both the PI3K kinase itself and associated pathway defects. Increased TMB may additionally confer immunotherapy sensitivity, which could be augmented by other targeted therapies.


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