New strategies for targeting kinase networks in cancer

J Biol Chem. 2021 Oct;297(4):101128. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.101128. Epub 2021 Aug 27.


Targeted strategies against specific driver molecules of cancer have brought about many advances in cancer treatment since the early success of the first small-molecule inhibitor Gleevec. Today, there are a multitude of targeted therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cancer. However, the initial efficacy of virtually every targeted treatment is often reversed by tumor resistance to the inhibitor through acquisition of new mutations in the target molecule, or reprogramming of the epigenome, transcriptome, or kinome of the tumor cells. At the core of this clinical problem lies the assumption that targeted treatments will only be efficacious if the inhibitors are used at their maximum tolerated doses. Such aggressive regimens create strong selective pressure on the evolutionary progression of the tumor, resulting in resistant cells. High-dose single agent treatments activate alternative mechanisms that bypass the inhibitor, while high-dose combinatorial treatments suffer from increased toxicity resulting in treatment cessation. Although there is an arsenal of targeted agents being tested clinically and preclinically, identifying the most effective combination treatment plan remains a challenge. In this review, we discuss novel targeted strategies with an emphasis on the recent cross-disciplinary studies demonstrating that it is possible to achieve antitumor efficacy without increasing toxicity by adopting low-dose multitarget approaches to treatment of cancer and metastasis.

Keywords: cancer therapy; cell signaling; combination therapy; drug resistance; inhibitor; kinase network; mathematical modeling; mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK); receptor tyrosine kinases; targeted therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasm Proteins* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / enzymology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Protein Kinases