The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) family of signalling enzymes play a key role in the transduction of signals from activated cell surface receptors controlling cell growth and proliferation, survival, metabolism, and migration. The intracellular signalling pathway from activated receptors to PI3K and its downstream targets v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog (Akt) and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) is very frequently deregulated by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in human cancer, including leukaemia and lymphoma. In the past decade, an arsenal of small molecule inhibitors of key enzymes in this pathway has been developed and evaluated in pre-clinical studies and clinical trials in cancer patients. These include pharmacological inhibitors of Akt, mTOR, and PI3K, some of which are approved for the treatment of leukaemia and lymphoma. The PI3K family comprises eight different catalytic isoforms in humans, which have been subdivided into three classes. Class I PI3K isoforms have been extensively studied in the context of human cancer, and the isoforms p110α and p110δ are validated drug targets. The recent approval of a p110δ-specific PI3K inhibitor (idelalisib/Zydelig®) for the treatment of selected B cell malignancies represents the first success in developing these molecules into anti-cancer drugs. In addition to PI3K inhibitors, mTOR inhibitors are intensively studied in leukaemia and lymphoma, and temsirolimus (Torisel®) is approved for the treatment of a type of lymphoma. Based on these promising results it is hoped that additional novel PI3K pathway inhibitors will in the near future be further developed into new drugs for leukaemia and lymphoma.
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