Radiosensitising Cancer Using Phosphatidylinositol-3-Kinase (PI3K), Protein Kinase B (AKT) or Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) Inhibitors

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Kasun Wanigasooriya
  • Robert Tyler
  • Joao D Barros-Silva
  • Yashashwi Sinha
  • Tariq Ismail

Colleges, School and Institutes


Radiotherapy is routinely used as a neoadjuvant, adjuvant or palliative treatment in various cancers. There is significant variation in clinical response to radiotherapy with or without traditional chemotherapy. Patients with a good response to radiotherapy demonstrate better clinical outcomes universally across different cancers. The PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway upregulation has been linked to radiotherapy resistance. We reviewed the current literature exploring the role of inhibiting targets along this pathway, in enhancing radiotherapy response. We identified several studies using in vitro cancer cell lines, in vivo tumour xenografts and a few Phase I/II clinical trials. Most of the current evidence in this area comes from glioblastoma multiforme, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. The biological basis for radiosensitivity following pathway inhibition was through inhibited DNA double strand break repair, inhibited cell proliferation, enhanced apoptosis and autophagy as well as tumour microenvironment changes. Dual PI3K/mTOR inhibition consistently demonstrated radiosensitisation of all types of cancer cells. Single pathway component inhibitors and other inhibitor combinations yielded variable outcomes especially within early clinical trials. There is ample evidence from preclinical studies to suggest that direct pharmacological inhibition of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway components can radiosensitise different types of cancer cells. We recommend that future in vitro and in vivo research in this field should focus on dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitors. Early clinical trials are needed to assess the feasibility and efficacy of these dual inhibitors in combination with radiotherapy in brain, lung, head and neck, breast, prostate and rectal cancer patients.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1278
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020


  • radiosensitiser, chemoradiotherapy, PI3K, AKT, mTOR inhibitors, rectal cancer, prostate cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, head and neck cancer, non-small cell lung cancer