TAM receptor tyrosine kinases: biologic functions, signaling, and potential therapeutic targeting in human cancer

Adv Cancer Res. 2008;100:35-83. doi: 10.1016/S0065-230X(08)00002-X.


Tyro-3, Axl, and Mer constitute the TAM family of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) characterized by a conserved sequence within the kinase domain and adhesion molecule-like extracellular domains. This small family of RTKs regulates an intriguing mix of processes, including cell proliferation/survival, cell adhesion and migration, blood clot stabilization, and regulation of inflammatory cytokine release. Genetic or experimental alteration of TAM receptor function can contribute to a number of disease states, including coagulopathy, autoimmune disease, retinitis pigmentosa, and cancer. In this chapter, we first provide a comprehensive review of the structure, regulation, biologic functions, and downstream signaling pathways of these receptors. In addition, we discuss recent evidence which suggests a role for TAM receptors in oncogenic mechanisms as family members are overexpressed in a spectrum of human cancers and have prognostic significance in some. Possible strategies for targeted inhibition of the TAM family in the treatment of human cancer are described. Further research will be necessary to evaluate the full clinical implications of TAM family expression and activation in cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase
  • Cell Survival
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / genetics
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tumor Burden / genetics
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase


  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • MERTK protein, human
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • TYRO3 protein, human
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase
  • Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase
  • AXL protein, human