PI3K in stemness regulation: From development to cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


The PI3K/AKT pathway is a key target in oncology where most efforts are focussed on phenotypes such as cell proliferation and survival. Comparatively, little attention has been paid to PI3K in stemness regulation, despite the emerging link between acquisition of stem cell-like features and therapeutic failure in cancer. The aim of this review is to summarise current known and unknowns of PI3K-dependent stemness regulation, by integrating knowledge from the fields of developmental, signalling and cancer biology. Particular attention is given to the role of the PI3K pathway in pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) and the emerging parallels to dedifferentiated cancer cells with stem cell-like features. Compelling evidence suggests that PI3K/AKT signalling forms part of a 'core molecular stemness programme' in both mouse and human PSCs. In cancer, the oncogenic PIK3CAH1047R variant causes constitutive activation of the PI3K pathway and has recently been linked to increased stemness in a dose-dependent manner, similar to observations in mouse PSCs with heterozygous versus homozygous Pten loss. There is also evidence that the stemness phenotype may become 'locked' and thus independent of the original PI3K activation, posing limitations for the success of PI3K monotherapy in cancer. Ongoing therapeutic developments for PI3Kassociated cancers may therefore benefit from a better understanding of the pathway's two-layered and highly context-dependent regulation of cell growth versus stemness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-315
Number of pages15
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number1
Early online date3 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'PI3K in stemness regulation: From development to cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this