Targeting the PI3K pathway in cancer: are we making headway?

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2018 May;15(5):273-291. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2018.28. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


The PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway is one of the most frequently dysregulated pathways in cancer and, consequently, more than 40 compounds that target key components of this signalling network have been tested in clinical trials involving patients with a range of different cancers. The clinical development of many of these agents, however, has not advanced to late-phase randomized trials, and the antitumour activity of those that have been evaluated in comparative prospective studies has typically been limited, or toxicities were found to be prohibitive. Nevertheless, the mTOR inhibitors temsirolimus and everolimus and the PI3K inhibitors idelalisib and copanlisib have been approved by the FDA for clinical use in the treatment of a number of different cancers. Novel compounds with greater potency and selectivity, as well as improved therapeutic indices owing to reduced risks of toxicity, are clearly required. In addition, biomarkers that are predictive of a response, such as PIK3CA mutations for inhibitors of the PI3K catalytic subunit α isoform, must be identified and analytically and clinically validated. Finally, considering that oncogenic activation of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway often occurs alongside pro-tumorigenic aberrations in other signalling networks, rational combinations are also needed to optimize the effectiveness of treatment. Herein, we review the current experience with anticancer therapies that target the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / immunology
  • Everolimus / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt / immunology*
  • Purines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use
  • Quinazolines / therapeutic use
  • Quinazolinones / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / immunology


  • Purines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Quinazolines
  • Quinazolinones
  • Everolimus
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt
  • copanlisib
  • idelalisib