mTOR Mediated Anti-Cancer Drug Discovery

Drug Discov Today Ther Strateg. Summer 2009;6(2):47-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ddstr.2009.12.001.


The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is an evolutionarily conserved serine/threonine kinase and the founding member of a signaling pathway that regulates many fundamental features of cell growth and division. In cells, mTOR acts as the catalytic subunit of two functionally distinct complexes, called mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTOR Complex 2 (mTORC2). Together, these complexes coordinate a variety of processes that include protein translation, autophagy, proliferation, survival and metabolism in response to nutrient, energy and growth factor signals. Consistent with its role as a growth-promoting pathway, numerous studies have found that Mtor signaling is hyper-activated in a broad spectrum of human cancers. In particular, mTORC2 is considered a primary effector of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway, which is mutated in a majority of human cancers, in part through its ability to phosphorylate and regulate the proto-oncogene Akt/PKB. Many biological functions of mTOR have been pharmacologically explored using the natural product rapamycin, an allosteric inhibitor that has been reviewed extensively elsewhere. This review will focus specifically on the development of small molecule ATP-competitive inhibitors of mTOR and their prospects as a targeted therapy.