Activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway and chemotherapeutic resistance

Drug Resist Updat. 2002 Dec;5(6):234-48. doi: 10.1016/s1368-7646(02)00120-6.


The resistance of many types of cancer to conventional chemotherapies is a major factor undermining successful cancer treatment. In this review, the role of a signal transduction pathway comprised of the lipid kinase, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), and the serine/threonine kinase, Akt (or PKB), in chemotherapeutic resistance will be explored. Activation of this pathway plays a pivotal role in essential cellular functions such as survival, proliferation, migration and differentiation that underlie the biology of human cancer. Akt activation also contributes to tumorigenesis and tumor metastasis, and as shown most recently, resistance to chemotherapy. Modulating Akt activity is now a commonly observed endpoint of chemotherapy administration or administration of chemopreventive agents. Studies performed in vitro and in vivo combining small molecule inhibitors of the PI3K/Akt pathway with standard chemotherapy have been successful in attenuating chemotherapeutic resistance. As a result, small molecules designed to specifically target Akt and other components of the pathway are now being developed for clinical use as single agents and in combination with chemotherapy to overcome therapeutic resistance. Specifically inhibiting Akt activity may be a valid approach to treat cancer and increase the efficacy of chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Retroviridae Proteins, Oncogenic / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Retroviridae Proteins, Oncogenic / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Retroviridae Proteins, Oncogenic
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt