PI3K and Akt as molecular targets for cancer therapy: current clinical outcomes

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2012 Dec;33(12):1441-58. doi: 10.1038/aps.2012.72. Epub 2012 Sep 17.


The PI3K-Akt pathway is a vital regulator of cell proliferation and survival. Alterations in the PIK3CA gene that lead to enhanced PI3K kinase activity have been reported in many human cancer types, including cancers of the colon, breast, brain, liver, stomach and lung. Deregulation of PI3K causes aberrant Akt activity. Therefore targeting this pathway could have implications for cancer treatment. The first generation PI3K-Akt inhibitors were proven to be highly effective with a low IC(50), but later, they were shown to have toxic side effects and poor pharmacological properties and selectivity. Thus, these inhibitors were only effective in preclinical models. However, derivatives of these first generation inhibitors are much more selective and are quite effective in targeting the PI3K-Akt pathway, either alone or in combination. These second-generation inhibitors are essentially a specific chemical moiety that helps to form a strong hydrogen bond interaction with the PI3K/Akt molecule. The goal of this review is to delineate the current efforts that have been undertaken to inhibit the various components of the PI3K and Akt pathway in different types of cancer both in vitro and in vivo. Our focus here is on these novel therapies and their inhibitory effects that depend upon their chemical nature, as well as their development towards clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase / genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase / metabolism
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt