Aberrant activation of the PI3K–AKT pathway is common in many cancers, including melanoma, and AKT1, 2 and 3 (AKT1–3) are bona fide oncoprotein kinases with well-validated downstream effectors. However, efforts to pharmacologically inhibit AKT have proven to be largely ineffective. In this study, we observed paradoxical effects following either pharmacologic or genetic inhibition of AKT1–3 in melanoma cells. Although pharmacological inhibition was without effect, genetic silencing of all three AKT paralogs significantly induced melanoma cell death through effects on mTOR. This phenotype was rescued by exogenous AKT1 expression in a kinase-dependent manner. Pharmacological inhibition of PI3K and mTOR with a novel dual inhibitor effectively suppressed melanoma cell proliferation in vitro and inhibited tumor growth in vivo. Furthermore, this single-agent–targeted therapy was well-tolerated in vivo and was effective against MAPK inhibitor–resistant patient-derived melanoma xenografts. These results suggest that inhibition of PI3K and mTOR with this novel dual inhibitor may represent a promising therapeutic strategy in this disease in both the first-line and MAPK inhibitor–resistant setting.

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