PI3K/Akt signalling pathway and cancer

Cancer Treat Rev. 2004 Apr;30(2):193-204. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2003.07.007.


Phosphatidylinositol-3 kinases, PI3Ks, constitute a lipid kinase family characterized by their ability to phosphorylate inositol ring 3'-OH group in inositol phospholipids to generate the second messenger phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PI-3,4,5-P(3)). RPTK activation results in PI(3,4,5)P(3) and PI(3,4)P(2) production by PI3K at the inner side of the plasma membrane. Akt interacts with these phospholipids, causing its translocation to the inner membrane, where it is phosphorylated and activated by PDK1 and PDK2. Activated Akt modulates the function of numerous substrates involved in the regulation of cell survival, cell cycle progression and cellular growth. In recent years, it has been shown that PI3K/Akt signalling pathway components are frequently altered in human cancers. Cancer treatment by chemotherapy and gamma-irradiation kills target cells primarily by the induction of apoptosis. However, the development of resistance to therapy is an important clinical problem. Failure to activate the apoptotic programme represents an important mode of drug resistance in tumor cells. Survival signals induced by several receptors are mediated mainly by PI3K/Akt, hence this pathway may decisively contribute to the resistant phenotype. Many of the signalling pathways involved in cellular transformation have been elucidated and efforts are underway to develop treatment strategies that target these specific signalling molecules or their downstream effectors. The PI3K/Akt pathway is involved in many of the mechanisms targeted by these new drugs, thus a better understanding of this crossroad can help to fully exploit the potential benefits of these new agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Drugs, Investigational / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / drug effects
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drugs, Investigational
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • AKT1 protein, human
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt