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Current clinical regulation of PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR signalling in treatment of human cancer



PTEN is an essential tumour suppressor gene which encodes a phosphatase protein that antagonises the PI3K/Akt/mTOR antiapoptotic pathway. Impairment of this tumour suppressor pathway potentially becomes a causal factor for development of malignancies. This review aims to assess current understanding of mechanisms of dysfunction involving the PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR pathway linked to tumorigenesis and evaluate the evidence for targeted therapy directed at this signalling axis.


Relevant articles in scientific databases were identified using a combination of search terms, including “malignancies”, “targeted therapy”, “PTEN”, and “combination therapy”. These databases included Medline, Embase, Cochrane Review, Pubmed, and Scopus.


PI3K/PTEN expression is frequently deregulated in a majority of malignancies through genetic, epigenetic, and post-transcriptional modifications. This contributes to the upregulation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway which has been the focus of intense clinical studies. Targeted agents aimed at this pathway offer a novel treatment approach in a variety of haematologic malignancies and solid tumours. Compared to single-agent use, greater response rates were obtained in combination regimens, supporting further investigation of suitable drug combinations in a broad spectrum of malignancies.


Activation of the PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR pathway is implicated both in the pathogenesis of malignancies and development of resistance to anticancer therapies. Therefore, PI3K/Akt/mTOR inhibitors are a promising therapeutic option, in association with systemic cytotoxic and biological therapies, to enable sustained clinical outcomes in cancer treatment. Therapeutic strategies could be tailored according to appropriate biomarkers and patient-specific mutation profiles to maximise benefit of combination therapies.

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Lim, H.J., Crowe, P. & Yang, J. Current clinical regulation of PI3K/PTEN/Akt/mTOR signalling in treatment of human cancer. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 141, 671–689 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00432-014-1803-3

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  • Cancers
  • PTEN expression
  • Targeted therapy
  • PI3K/mTOR inhibitors