Mutations activating the PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase)/Akt signalling pathway and inactivating the TP53 tumour-suppressor gene are common mechanisms that cancer cells require to proliferate and escape pre-programmed cell death. In a well-described mechanism, Akt mediates negative control of p53 levels through enhancing MDM2 (murine double minute 2)-mediated targeting of p53 for degradation. Accumulating evidence is beginning to suggest that, in certain circumstances, PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10)/PI3K/Akt also promotes p53 translation and protein stability, suggesting that additional mechanisms may be involved in the Akt-mediated regulation of p53 in tumours. In the present article, we discuss these aspects in the light of clinical PI3K/Akt inhibitors, where information regarding the effect on p53 activity will be a crucial factor that will undoubtedly influence therapeutic efficacy.

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