New paradigms in anticancer therapy: targeting multiple signaling pathways with kinase inhibitors

Semin Oncol. 2006 Aug;33(4):407-20. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2006.04.005.


Signal transduction in cancer cells is a sophisticated process that involves receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) that eventually trigger multiple cytoplasmic kinases, which are often serine/threonine kinases. A number of tumor models have identified several key cellular signaling pathways that work independently, in parallel, and/or through interconnections to promote cancer development. Three major signaling pathways that have been identified as playing important roles in cancer include the phosphatidyl inositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT, protein kinase C (PKC) family, and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/Ras signaling cascades. In clinical trials, highly selective or specific blocking of only one of the kinases involved in these signaling pathways has been associated with limited or sporadic responses. Improved understanding of the complexity of signal transduction processes and their roles in cancer has suggested that simultaneous inhibition of several key kinases at the level of receptors and/or downstream serine/threonine kinases may help to optimize the overall therapeutic benefit associated with molecularly targeted anticancer agents. Using targeted agents to inhibit multiple signaling pathways has emerged as a new paradigm for anticancer treatment based on preclinical and clinical data showing potent anti-tumor activity of single drugs inhibiting multiple molecular targets or combination therapies involving multiple drugs with selective or narrow target specificity. Preclinical and clinical studies point to molecules on vascular endothelial cells and pericytes as being important targets for anticancer therapies, as well as molecules on or within tumor cells themselves. This suggests that optimal therapeutic approaches to cancer may involve targeting multiple molecules found in both the tumor and supportive tissues. In this review, we will use the most recent preclinical and clinical data to describe this emerging paradigm for anticancer therapy involving targeting multiple signaling pathways with tyrosine or serine/threonine kinase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Kinases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / chemistry
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Protein Kinase C