Perspective: Potential impact and therapeutic implications of oncogenic PI3K activation on chromosomal instability

Bart Vanhaesebroeck, Benoit Bilanges, Ralitsa R. Madsen, Katie L. Dale, Evelyn Lau, Elina Vladimirou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


Genetic activation of the class I PI3K pathway is very common in cancer. This mostly results from oncogenic mutations in PIK3CA, the gene encoding the ubiquitously expressed PI3Kα catalytic subunit, or from inactivation of the PTEN tumour suppressor, a lipid phosphatase that opposes class I PI3K signalling. The clinical impact of PI3K inhibitors in solid tumours, aimed at dampening cancer-cell-intrinsic PI3K activity, has thus far been limited. Challenges include poor drug tolerance, incomplete pathway inhibition and pre-existing or inhibitor-induced resistance. The principle of pharmacologically targeting cancer-cell-intrinsic PI3K activity also assumes that all cancer-promoting effects of PI3K activation are reversible, which might not be the case. Emerging evidence suggests that genetic PI3K pathway activation can induce and/or allow cells to tolerate chromosomal instability, which—even if occurring in a low fraction of the cell population—might help to facilitate and/or drive tumour evolution. While it is clear that such genomic events cannot be reverted pharmacologically, a role for PI3K in the regulation of chromosomal instability could be exploited by using PI3K pathway inhibitors to prevent those genomic events from happening and/or reduce the pace at which they are occurring, thereby dampening cancer development or progression. Such an impact might be most effective in tumours with clonal PI3K activation and achievable at lower drug doses than the maximum-tolerated doses of PI3K inhibitors currently used in the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number331
Number of pages18
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Cancer
  • Centrosome
  • Chromosomal instability
  • PI 3-kinase
  • PI3K inhibitor
  • Tumour evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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