The PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway plays an essential role in a wide range of biological functions, including metabolism, macromolecular synthesis, cell growth, proliferation and survival. Its versatility, however, makes it a conspicuous target of many pathogens; and the consequential deregulations of this pathway often lead to complications, such as tumorigenesis, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Molecular targeted therapy, aimed at modulating the deregulated pathway, holds great promise for controlling these diseases, though side effects may be inevitable, given the ubiquity of the pathway in cell functions. Here, we review a variety of factors found to modulate the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway, including gene mutations, certain metabolites, inflammatory factors, chemical toxicants, drugs found to rectify the pathway, as well as viruses that hijack the pathway for their own synthetic purposes. Furthermore, this evidence of PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway alteration and related pathogenesis has inspired the exploration of computer-aided targeting of this pathway to optimize therapeutic strategies. Herein, we discuss several possible options, using computer-aided targeting, to reduce the toxicity of molecularly-targeted therapy, including mathematical modeling, to reveal system-level control mechanisms and to confer a low-dosage combination therapy, the potential of PP2A as a therapeutic target, the formulation of parameters to identify patients who would most benefit from specific targeted therapies and molecular dynamics simulations and docking studies to discover drugs that are isoform specific or mutation selective so as to avoid undesired broad inhibitions. We hope this review will stimulate novel ideas for pharmaceutical discovery and deepen our understanding of curability and toxicity by targeting the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway.
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