Review protein tyrosine kinases: Their roles and their targeting in leukemia

Kalpana K. Bhanumathy, Amrutha Balagopal, Frederick S. Vizeacoumar, Franco J. Vizeacoumar, Andrew Freywald, Vincenzo Giambra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protein kinases constitute a large group of enzymes catalysing protein phosphorylation and controlling multiple signalling events. The human protein kinase superfamily consists of 518 members and represents a complicated system with intricate internal and external interactions. Protein kinases are classified into two main families based on the ability to phosphorylate either tyrosine or serine and threonine residues. Among the 90 tyrosine kinase genes, 58 are receptor types classified into 20 groups and 32 are of the nonreceptor types distributed into 10 groups. Tyrosine kinases execute their biological functions by controlling a variety of cellular responses, such as cell division, metabolism, migration, cell–cell and cell matrix adhesion, cell survival and apoptosis. Over the last 30 years, a major focus of research has been directed towards cancer-associated tyrosine kinases owing to their critical contributions to the development and aggressiveness of human malignancies through the pathological effects on cell behaviour. Leukaemia represents a heterogeneous group of haemato-logical malignancies, characterised by an uncontrolled proliferation of undifferentiated hematopoietic cells or leukaemia blasts, mostly derived from bone marrow. They are usually classified as chronic or acute, depending on the rates of their progression, as well as myeloid or lymphoblastic, according to the type of blood cells involved. Overall, these malignancies are relatively common amongst both children and adults. In malignant haematopoiesis, multiple tyrosine kinases of both receptor and nonreceptor types, including AXL receptor tyrosine kinase (AXL), Discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1), Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR), Fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR), Mesenchymal–epithelial transition factor (MET), proto-oncogene c-Src (SRC), Spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) and pro-oncogenic Abelson tyrosine-protein kinase 1 (ABL1) mutants, are implicated in the pathogenesis and drug resistance of practically all types of leukaemia. The role of ABL1 kinase mutants and their therapeutic inhibitors have been extensively analysed in scientific literature, and therefore, in this review, we provide insights into the impact and mechanism of action of other tyrosine kinases involved in the development and progression of human leukaemia and discuss the currently available and emerging treatment options based on targeting these molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Article number184
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2021


  • Leukaemia
  • Non-receptor tyrosine kinase
  • Protein kinase
  • Receptor tyrosine kinase
  • Small molecule inhibitor
  • Therapeutic antibodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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