LKB1: Can We Target an Hidden Target? Focus on NSCLC

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


LKB1 (liver kinase B1) is a master regulator of several processes such as metabolism, proliferation, cell polarity and immunity. About one third of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) present LKB1 alterations, which almost invariably lead to protein loss, resulting in the absence of a potential druggable target. In addition, LKB1-null tumors are very aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). In this review, we report and comment strategies that exploit peculiar co-vulnerabilities to effectively treat this subgroup of NSCLCs. LKB1 loss leads to an enhanced metabolic avidity, and treatments inducing metabolic stress were successful in inhibiting tumor growth in several preclinical models. Biguanides, by compromising mitochondria and reducing systemic glucose availability, and the glutaminase inhibitor telaglenastat (CB-839), inhibiting glutamate production and reducing carbon intermediates essential for TCA cycle progression, have provided the most interesting results and entered different clinical trials enrolling also LKB1-null NSCLC patients. Nutrient deprivation has been investigated as an alternative therapeutic intervention, giving rise to interesting results exploitable to design specific dietetic regimens able to counteract cancer progression. Other strategies aimed at targeting LKB1-null NSCLCs exploit its pivotal role in modulating cell proliferation and cell invasion. Several inhibitors of LKB1 downstream proteins, such as mTOR, MEK, ERK and SRK/FAK, resulted specifically active on LKB1-mutated preclinical models and, being molecules already in clinical experimentation, could be soon proposed as a specific therapy for these patients. In particular, the rational use in combination of these inhibitors represents a very promising strategy to prevent the activation of collateral pathways and possibly avoid the potential emergence of resistance to these drugs. LKB1-null phenotype has been correlated to ICIs resistance but several studies have already proposed the mechanisms involved and potential interventions. Interestingly, emerging data highlighted that LKB1 alterations represent positive determinants to the new KRAS specific inhibitors response in KRAS co-mutated NSCLCs. In conclusion, the absence of the target did not block the development of treatments able to hit LKB1-mutated NSCLCs acting on several fronts. This will give patients a concrete chance to finally benefit from an effective therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number889826
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - May 11 2022


  • metabolism
  • non-small cell lung cancer
  • personalized medicine
  • STK11 (LKB1)
  • target

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'LKB1: Can We Target an Hidden Target? Focus on NSCLC'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this