Targeting FAK in human cancer: from finding to first clinical trials

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2014 Jan 1;19:687-706. doi: 10.2741/4236.


It is twenty years since Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) was found to be overexpressed in many types of human cancer. FAK plays an important role in adhesion, spreading, motility, invasion, metastasis, survival, angiogenesis, and recently has been found to play an important role as well in epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), cancer stem cells and tumor microenvironment. FAK has kinase-dependent and kinase independent scaffolding, cytoplasmic and nuclear functions. Several years ago FAK was proposed as a potential therapeutic target; the first clinical trials were just reported, and they supported further studies of FAK as a promising therapeutic target. This review discusses the main functions of FAK in cancer, and specifically focuses on recent novel findings on the role of FAK in cancer stem cells, microenvironment, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, invasion, metastasis, and also highlight new approaches of targeting FAK and critically discuss challenges that lie ahead for its targeted therapeutics. The review provides a summary of translational approaches of FAK-targeted and combination therapies and outline perspectives and future directions of FAK research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / chemistry
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / drug effects*
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Protein Conformation


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases