Two hits are better than one: targeting both phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and mammalian target of rapamycin as a therapeutic strategy for acute leukemia treatment

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Martelli, Alberto M.
Chiarini, Francesca
Evangelisti, Camilla
Cappellini, Alessandra
Buontempo, Francesca
Bressanin, Daniela
Fini, Milena
McCubrey, James A.

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Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) are two key components of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. This signal transduction cascade regulates a wide range of physiological cell processes, that include differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, autophagy, metabolism, motility, and exocytosis. However, constitutively active PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling characterizes many types of tumors where it negatively influences response to therapeutic treatments. Hence, targeting PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling with small molecule inhibitors may improve cancer patient outcome. The PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling cascade is overactive in acute leukemias, where it correlates with enhanced drug-resistance and poor prognosis. The catalytic sites of PI3K and mTOR share a high degree of sequence homology. This feature has allowed the synthesis of ATP-competitive compounds targeting the catalytic site of both kinases. In preclinical models, dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors displayed a much stronger cytotoxicity against acute leukemia cells than either PI3K inhibitors or allosteric mTOR inhibitors, such as rapamycin. At variance with rapamycin, dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors targeted both mTOR complex 1 and mTOR complex 2, and inhibited the rapamycin-resistant phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1, resulting in a marked inhibition of oncogenic protein translation. Therefore, they strongly reduced cell proliferation and induced an important apoptotic response. Here, we reviewed the evidence documenting that dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors may represent a promising option for future targeted therapies of acute leukemia patients.



Oncotarget; 3:4 p. 371-394