PI3K and MEK inhibitor combinations: examining the evidence in selected tumor types

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2013 Jun;71(6):1395-409. doi: 10.1007/s00280-013-2121-1. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


The PI3K/AKT/mTOR and RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathways are two of the most frequently dysregulated kinase cascades in human cancer. Molecular alterations in these pathways are implicated in tumorigenesis and resistance to anticancer therapies. The PI3K/AKT/mTOR and RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathways are known to interact with each other at several nodes, and mounting evidence suggests that dual blockade of both pathways may be required to achieve anticancer effects in certain contexts. This may include tumor types with a high frequency of RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway activation, or situations in which dual pathway strategies may be required to overcome resistance to current targeted therapies. Several clinical studies are currently evaluating the combination of PI3K and MEK inhibitors in a variety of different cancers with certain types of molecular alterations. This review will summarize existing knowledge of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR and RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathways, the cross-talk between them, and the current generation of PI3K and MEK inhibitors that target them. The preclinical rationale for dual pathway inhibition will be discussed within the context of the major tumor types currently being explored in ongoing clinical trials, namely malignant melanoma with BRAF or NRAS mutations, and colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic, and basal-like breast cancers. The emerging clinical profile of PI3K and MEK inhibitor combinations, as reported in Phase I trials, will also be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases