GSK3β as a novel promising target to overcome chemoresistance in pancreatic cancer

Drug Resist Updat. 2021 Sep;58:100779. doi: 10.1016/j.drup.2021.100779. Epub 2021 Aug 12.


Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive malignancy with increasing incidence and poor prognosis due to its late diagnosis and intrinsic chemoresistance. Most pancreatic cancer patients present with locally advanced or metastatic disease characterized by inherent resistance to chemotherapy. These features pose a series of therapeutic challenges and new targets are urgently needed. Glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3β) is a conserved serine/threonine kinase, which regulates key cellular processes including cell proliferation, DNA repair, cell cycle progression, signaling and metabolic pathways. GSK3β is implicated in non-malignant and malignant diseases including inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and cancer. GSK3β recently emerged among the key factors involved in the onset and progression of pancreatic cancer, as well as in the acquisition of chemoresistance. Intensive research has been conducted on key oncogenic functions of GSK3β and its potential as a druggable target; currently developed GSK3β inhibitors display promising results in preclinical models of distinct tumor types, including pancreatic cancer. Here, we review the latest findings about GSK-3β biology and its role in the development and progression of pancreatic cancer. Moreover, we discuss therapeutic agents targeting GSK3β that could be administered as monotherapy or in combination with other drugs to surmount chemoresistance. Several studies are also defining potential gene signatures to identify patients who might benefit from GSK3β-based therapeutic intervention. This detailed overview emphasizes the urgent need of additional molecular studies on the impact of GSK3β inhibition as well as structural analysis of novel compounds and omics studies of predictive biomarkers.

Keywords: Anticancer drug combinations; Chemoresistance; GSK3β; Pancreatic cancer; Tumor chromatin profiling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm* / genetics
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta / genetics
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Oncogenes
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / genetics


  • GSK3B protein, human
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta