MEK inhibitor resistance mechanisms and recent developments in combination trials

E. Kun, Y. T.M. Tsang, C. W. Ng, D. M. Gershenson, K. K. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway plays a vital role in cellular processes such as gene expression, cell proliferation, cell survival, and apoptosis. Also known as the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK pathway, the MAPK pathway has been implicated in approximately one-third of all cancers. Mutations in RAS or RAF genes such as KRAS and BRAF are common, and these mutations typically promote malignancies by over-activating MEK and ERK downstream, which drives sustained cell proliferation and uninhibited cell growth. Development of drugs targeting this pathway has been a research area of great interest, especially drugs targeting the inhibition of MEK. In vitro and clinical studies have shown promise for certain MEK inhibitors (MEKi), and MEKi have become the first treatment option for certain cancers. Despite promising results, not all patients have a response to MEKi, and mechanisms of resistance typically arise in patients who do have a positive initial response. This paper summarizes recent developments regarding MEKi, the mechanisms of adaptive resistance to MEKi, and the potential solutions to the issue of adaptive MEKi resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102137
JournalCancer treatment reviews
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Drug combination trials
  • Mechanisms of Adaptive Resistance
  • MEK inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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