Therapeutic potential of target of rapamycin inhibitors

John B. Easton, Peter J. Houghton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Target of rapamycin (TOR) functions within the cell as a transducer of information from various sources, including growth factors, energy sensors, and hypoxia sensors, as well as components of the cell regulating growth and division. Blocking TOR function mimics amino acid, and to some extent, growth factor deprivation and has a cytostatic effect on proliferating cells in vivo. Inhibition of TOR in vivo, utilising its namesake rapamycin, leads to immunosuppression. This property has been exploited successfully with the use of rapamycin and its derivatives as a therapeutic agent in the prevention of organ rejection after transplantation with relatively mild side effects when compared to other immunosuppressive agents. The cytostatic effect of TOR on vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation has also recently been exploited in the therapeutic application of rapamycin to drug eluting stents for angioplasty. These stents significantly reduce the amount of arterial reblockage that results from proliferating vascular smooth muscle cells. In cancer, the effect of blocking TOR function on tumour growth and disease progression is currently of major interest and is the basis for a number of ongoing clinical trials. However, different cell types and tumours respond differently to TOR inhibition, and TOR is clearly not cytostatic for all types of cancer cells in vitro or in vivo. As the molecular details of how TOR functions and the targets of TOR activity are further elucidated, tumour and tissue specific functions are being identified that implicate TOR in angiogenesis, apoptosis, and the reversal of some forms of cellular transformation. This review will describe our current understanding of TOR function, describe the current strategies for employing TOR inhibitors in clinical and preclinical development, and outline future strategies for appropriate targets of TOR inhibitors in the treatment of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-564
Number of pages14
JournalExpert opinion on therapeutic targets
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Immunosuppression
  • Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibition
  • Rapamycin
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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