Acute myeloid leukemia - strategies and challenges for targeting oncogenic Hedgehog/GLI signaling

Cell Commun Signal. 2017 Jan 25;15(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s12964-017-0163-4.


Treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive and heterogeneous hematological malignancy, remains a challenge. Despite advances in our understanding of the complex genetics and biology of AML pathophysiology, these findings have been translated to the clinic with only limited success, and poor outcomes persist for the majority of patients. Thus, novel treatment strategies are clearly needed for achieving deeper and prolonged remissions and for avoiding the development of resistance. Due to its profound role in (cancer) stem cell biology and differentiation, the Hedgehog (HH)/Glioma-associated Oncogene Homolog (GLI) signaling pathway may be an attractive novel therapeutic target in AML. In this review, we aim to provide a critical and concise overview of the currently known potential and challenges of HH/GLI targeting. We describe the biological role of the HH/GLI pathway in AML pathophysiology. We specifically focus on ways of targeting non-canonical HH/GLI signaling in AML, particularly in combination with standard treatment regimens, which may overcome some hurdles observed with approved HH pathway inhibitors in solid tumors.

Keywords: Acute myeloid leukemia; Cancer stem cells; Combination therapy; GLI proteins; Hedgehog (HH) signaling; Non-canonical Hedgehog/GLI signaling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1 / metabolism*


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1