Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a difficult disease to treat, and better treatments are needed. Molecular targeted therapy represents a novel therapeutic approach. The FLT3 tyrosine kinase receptor is mutated in approximately one-fourth to one-third of patients with AML. Normally, binding of FLT3 ligand to the FLT3 receptor leads to phosphorylation of tyrosine residues and activation of the receptor. This in turn leads to induction of intracellular signaling pathways essential to regulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis. Two classes of FLT3 activating mutations have been identified in AML patients: internal tandem duplications (ITDS) and point mutations in the activating loop of the kinase domain. Both mutations result in constitutive FLT3 tyrosine kinase activity and lead to transformation of hematopoietic cell lines in vivo and in vitro. FLT3 ITDs are also an independent poor prognostic factor for overall survival and disease free survival in patients with AML. Therefore, targeting FLT3 mutations represents a potential therapeutic target for AML. This review will discuss the biology and clinical significance of FLT3 and FLT3 mutations in cell growth and signaling. In addition, I will discuss some of the novel FLT3 inhibitors which are entering clinical trials for AML.
Keywords: acute myelogenous leukemia, flt mutations, targeted therapy, flt inhibitors
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