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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research