The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt (protein kinase B, PKB)/mammalian Target Of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway plays a critical role in many cellular functions which are elicited by extracellular stimuli. However, constitutively active PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling has also been firmly established as a major determinant for cell growth, proliferation, and survival in an wide array of human cancers. Thus, blocking the PI3K/AKT/mTOR signal transduction network could be an effective new strategy for targeted anticancer therapy. Pharmacological inhibitors of this signaling cascade are powerful antineoplastic agents i i and in xenografted models of tumors, and some of them are now being tested in clinical trials. Recent studies showed that PI3K/Akt/mTOR axis is frequently activated in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) patient blasts and strongly contributes to proliferation, survival, and drug-resistance of these cells. Both the disease-free survival and overall survival are significantly shorter in AML cases with PI3K/Akt/mTOR upregulation. Therefore, this signal transduction cascade may represent a target for innovative therapeutic treatments of AML patients. In this review, we discuss the possible mechanisms of activation of this pathway in AML cells and the downstream molecular targets of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling network which are important for blocking apoptosis, enhancing proliferation, and promoting drug-resistance of leukemic cells. We also highlight several pharmacological inhibitors which have been used to block this pathway for targeted therapy of AML. These small molecules induce apoptosis or sensitize AML cells to existing drugs, and might be used in the future for improving the outcome of this hematological disorder.
Keywords: Inositol lipids, signal transduction, Akt, apoptosis, drug resistance, leukemia, targeted molecular therapy, clinical trial
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