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Immunotherapy. 2011 Feb;3(2):213-27. doi: 10.2217/imt.10.99.

Small-molecule protein kinase inhibitors and their effects on the immune system: implications for cancer treatment.

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New York University Cancer Institute, Division of Medical Oncology, 160 E 34th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Oncogenic signaling pathways have emerged as key targets for the development of small-molecule inhibitors, with several protein kinase inhibitors already in clinical use for cancer patients. In addition to their role in tumorigenesis, many of the molecules and signaling pathways targeted by these inhibitors are also important in the signaling and interaction of immune cells, such as T cells and dendritic cells. Not surprisingly, there is increasing evidence that many of these inhibitors can have a substantial impact on immune function, both stimulating and downregulating an immune response. In order to illustrate the important role of signaling molecule inhibition in the modulation of immune function, we will discuss the exemplary pathways MAPK, AKT-PI3K-mTOR and VEGF-VEGFR, as well as selected small-molecule inhibitors, whose impact on immune cells has been studied more extensively.

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