Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt signaling as a key mediator of tumor cell responsiveness to radiation

Semin Cancer Biol. 2015 Dec;35:180-90. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2015.07.003. Epub 2015 Jul 17.


The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway is a key cascade downstream of several protein kinases, especially membrane-bound receptor tyrosine kinases, including epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family members. Hyperactivation of the PI3K/Akt pathway is correlated with tumor development, progression, poor prognosis, and resistance to cancer therapies, such as radiotherapy, in human solid tumors. Akt/PKB (Protein Kinase B) members are the major kinases that act downstream of PI3K, and these are involved in a variety of cellular functions, including growth, proliferation, glucose metabolism, invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, and survival. Accumulating evidence indicates that activated Akt is one of the major predictive markers for solid tumor responsiveness to chemo/radiotherapy. DNA double-strand breaks (DNA-DSB), are the prime cause of cell death induced by ionizing radiation. Preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that constitutive activation of Akt and stress-induced activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway accelerate the repair of DNA-DSB and, consequently, lead to therapy resistance. Analyzing dysregulations of Akt, such as point mutations, gene amplification or overexpression, which results in the constitutive activation of Akt, might be of special importance in the context of radiotherapy outcomes. Such studies, as well as studies of the mechanism(s) by which activated Akt1 regulates repair of DNA-DSB, might help to identify combinations using the appropriate molecular targeting strategies with conventional radiotherapy to overcome radioresistance in solid tumors. In this review, we discuss the dysregulation of the components of upstream regulators of Akt as well as specific modifications of Akt isoforms that enhance Akt activity. Likewise, the mechanisms by which Akt interferes with repair of DNA after exposure to ionizing radiation, will be reviewed. Finally, the current status of Akt targeting in combination with radiotherapy will be discussed.

Keywords: DNA repair; DNA-PKcs; Ionizing radiation; NHEJ; PI3K/Akt; Radiotherapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects
  • DNA End-Joining Repair
  • DNA Repair
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Radiation, Ionizing
  • Signal Transduction* / radiation effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt