Kinase-targeted cancer therapies: progress, challenges and future directions

Mol Cancer. 2018 Feb 19;17(1):48. doi: 10.1186/s12943-018-0804-2.


The human genome encodes 538 protein kinases that transfer a γ-phosphate group from ATP to serine, threonine, or tyrosine residues. Many of these kinases are associated with human cancer initiation and progression. The recent development of small-molecule kinase inhibitors for the treatment of diverse types of cancer has proven successful in clinical therapy. Significantly, protein kinases are the second most targeted group of drug targets, after the G-protein-coupled receptors. Since the development of the first protein kinase inhibitor, in the early 1980s, 37 kinase inhibitors have received FDA approval for treatment of malignancies such as breast and lung cancer. Furthermore, about 150 kinase-targeted drugs are in clinical phase trials, and many kinase-specific inhibitors are in the preclinical stage of drug development. Nevertheless, many factors confound the clinical efficacy of these molecules. Specific tumor genetics, tumor microenvironment, drug resistance, and pharmacogenomics determine how useful a compound will be in the treatment of a given cancer. This review provides an overview of kinase-targeted drug discovery and development in relation to oncology and highlights the challenges and future potential for kinase-targeted cancer therapies.

Keywords: Cancer; Kinase inhibition; Kinases; Oncology; Small-molecule drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases