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The Akt/PKB pathway: molecular target for cancer drug discovery

Abstract

The serine/threonine kinase Akt/PKB pathway presents an exciting new target for molecular therapeutics, as it functions as a cardinal nodal point for transducing extracellular (growth factor and insulin) and intracellular (receptor tyrosine kinases, Ras and Src) oncogenic signals. In addition, alterations of the Akt pathway have been detected in a number of human malignancies. Ectopic expression of Akt, especially constitutively activated Akt, is sufficient to induce oncogenic transformation of cells and tumor formation in transgenic mice as well as chemoresistance. Akt has a wide range of downstream targets that regulate tumor-associated cell processes such as cell growth, cell cycle progression, survival, migration, epithelial–mesenchymal transition and angiogenesis. Blockage of Akt signaling results in apoptosis and growth inhibition of tumor cells with elevated Akt. The observed dependence of certain tumors on Akt signaling for survival and growth has wide implications for cancer therapy, offering the potential for preferential tumor cell killing. In the last several years, through combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput and virtual screening, and traditional medicinal chemistry, a number of inhibitors of the Akt pathway have been identified. This review focuses on ongoing translational efforts to therapeutically target the Akt pathway.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Joseph R Testa for his comments and critical reading. This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and Department of Defense (JQC).

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Cheng, J., Lindsley, C., Cheng, G. et al. The Akt/PKB pathway: molecular target for cancer drug discovery. Oncogene 24, 7482–7492 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.onc.1209088

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Keywords

  • Akt
  • cancer
  • therapeutics
  • inhibitor

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