Therapeutic implications of targeting the PI3Kinase/AKT/mTOR signaling module in melanoma therapy

Am J Cancer Res. 2012;2(2):178-91. Epub 2012 Feb 15.


The PI3Kinase/AKT/mTOR signaling module is implicated in various cellular functions including cell survival, growth and proliferation, glucose metabolism, apoptosis, migration, and angiogenesis. Increased expression of AKT and its up- and downstream regulators is linked to several types of cancer. Aberrant expression of AKT is observed in nearly 60% of melanomas culminating in apoptosis resistance via deactivation of apoptotic molecules Bad and Cas-pase-9. Through cross-talk with NF-κB, ERK1/2, JNK and p38MAPK signaling pathways, AKT induces a plethora of cellular effects often leading to tumor development and progression. Due to frequently observed resistance to other common cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation, and the detrimental consequences of constitutive activation of the PI3Kinase/AKT/mTOR signaling module, targeted inhibition of the effectors and substrates involved in this module has become a viable and attractive option for molecular targeted therapy in melanoma. Pharmacological inhibitors of various components of this module, either alone or in combination with other agents, have shown significant decrease in proliferation, tumorigenesis, cell growth and survival of various tumors in phases I and II clinical trials. Some inhibitors have even received their Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This review summarizes the current knowledge on this module, its cross-talk with other major cell survival pathways and its targeted inhibition for therapeutic purposes in melanoma.

Keywords: AKT; PI3Kinase; PTEN; apoptosis; mTOR; melanoma; resistance; signal transduction; targeted therapy.