Targeting CDK4/6 in patients with cancer

Cancer Treat Rev. 2016 Apr;45:129-38. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2016.03.002. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


The cyclin D-cyclin dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6-inhibitor of CDK4 (INK4)-retinoblastoma (Rb) pathway controls cell cycle progression by regulating the G1-S checkpoint. Dysregulation of the cyclin D-CDK4/6-INK4-Rb pathway results in increased proliferation, and is frequently observed in many types of cancer. Pathway activation can occur through a variety of mechanisms, including gene amplification or rearrangement, loss of negative regulators, epigenetic alterations, and point mutations in key pathway components. Due to the importance of CDK4/6 activity in cancer cells, CDK4/6 inhibitors have emerged as promising candidates for cancer treatment. Moreover, combination of a CDK4/6 inhibitor with other targeted therapies may help overcome acquired or de novo treatment resistance. Ongoing studies include combinations of CDK4/6 inhibitors with endocrine therapy and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway inhibitors for hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancers, and with selective RAF and MEK inhibitors for tumors with alterations in the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway such as melanoma. In particular, the combination of CDK4/6 inhibitors with endocrine therapy, such as palbociclib's recent first-line approval in combination with letrozole, is expected to transform the treatment of HR+ breast cancer. Currently, three selective CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved or are in late-stage development: palbociclib (PD-0332991), ribociclib (LEE011), and abemaciclib (LY2835219). Here we describe the current preclinical and clinical data for these novel agents and discuss combination strategies with other agents for the treatment of cancer.

Keywords: Abemaciclib (LY2835219); CDK4/6 inhibitor; Palbociclib (PD-0332991); Ribociclib (LEE011).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aminopyridines / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Purines / pharmacology*
  • Pyridines / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • raf Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Aminopyridines
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Pyridines
  • raf Kinases
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • palbociclib
  • ribociclib