Molecular pathways: AXL, a membrane receptor mediator of resistance to therapy

Maurizio Scaltriti, Moshe Elkabets, José Baselga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


AXL is a tyrosine kinase membrane receptor that signals via PI3K, MAPK, and protein kinase C (PKC), among other pathways. AXL has oncogenic potential and interacts with other membrane receptors, depending on their relative abundance and availability. The increased expression of AXL in cancer is often the result of pharmacologic selective pressure to a number of chemotherapies and targeted therapies and acts as a mechanism of acquired drug resistance. This resistance phenotype, frequently accompanied by epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, can be reversed by AXL inhibition. In tumors with high levels of EGFR, including lung, head and neck, and triple-negative breast cancer, AXL dimerizes with this receptor and initiates signaling that circumvents the antitumor effects of anti-EGFR therapies. Likewise, AXL overexpression and dimerization with EGFR can overcome PI3K inhibition by activating the phospholipase C-γ-PKC cascade that, in turn, sustains mTORC1 activity. The causative role of AXL in inducing drug resistance is underscored by the fact that the suppression of AXL restores sensitivity to these agents. Hence, these observations indicate that AXL is selectively expressed in tumor cells refractory to therapy and that cotargeting AXL in this setting would potentially overcome drug resistance. The use of AXL inhibitors should be considered in the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1317
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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