Deciphering the link between PI3K and PAK: An opportunity to target key pathways in pancreatic cancer?

Kiruthikah Thillai, Hoyin Lam, Debashis Sarker, Claire M. Wells*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
230 Downloads (Pure)


The development of personalised therapies has ushered in a new and exciting era of cancer treatment for a variety of solid malignancies. Yet pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has failed to benefit from this paradigm shift, remaining notoriously refractory to targeted therapies. Chemotherapy is the cornerstone of management but can offer only modest survival benefits of a few months with 5-year survival rates rarely exceeding 3%. Despite these disappointing statistics, significant strides have been made towards understanding the complex biology of pancreatic cancer, with deep genomic sequencing identifying novel genetic aberrations and key signalling pathways. The PI3K-PDK1-AKT pathway has received great attention due to its prominence in carcinogenesis. However, efforts to target several components of this network have resulted in only a handful of drugs demonstrating any survival benefit in solid tumors; despite promising pre-clinical results. p-21 activated kinase 4 (PAK4) is a gene that is recurrently amplified or overexpressed in PDAC and both PAK4 and related family member PAK1, have been linked to aberrant RAS activity, a common feature in pancreatic cancer. As regulators of PI3K, PAKs have been highlighted as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target. In this review, we discuss the biology of pancreatic cancer and the close interaction between PAKs and the PI3K pathway. We also suggest proposals for future research that may see the development of effective targeted therapies that could finally improve outcomes for this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14173-14191
Number of pages19
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2016


  • PAK
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • PI3K


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