Involvement of PI3K/Akt pathway in cell cycle progression, apoptosis, and neoplastic transformation: a target for cancer chemotherapy

Leukemia. 2003 Mar;17(3):590-603. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2402824.


The PI3K/Akt signal transduction cascade has been investigated extensively for its roles in oncogenic transformation. Initial studies implicated both PI3K and Akt in prevention of apoptosis. However, more recent evidence has also associated this pathway with regulation of cell cycle progression. Uncovering the signaling network spanning from extracellular environment to the nucleus should illuminate biochemical events contributing to malignant transformation. Here, we discuss PI3K/Akt-mediated signal transduction including its mechanisms of activation, signal transducing molecules, and effects on gene expression that contribute to tumorigenesis. Effects of PI3K/Akt signaling on important proteins controlling cellular proliferation are emphasized. These targets include cyclins, cyclin-dependent kinases, and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. Furthermore, strategies used to inhibit the PI3K/Akt pathway are presented. The potential for cancer treatment with agents inhibiting this pathway is also addressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • AKT1 protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt