Differentiation therapy using all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) is well established for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Several attempts have been made to treat non-APL acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients by employing differentiation inducers, such as hypomethylating agents and low-dose cytarabine, with encouraging results. In the present review, I focus on other possible differentiation inducers: kinase inhibitors and interferons (IFNs). A number of kinase inhibitors have been reported to induce differentiation, including CDK inhibitors, GSK3 inhibitors, Akt inhibitors, p38 MAPK inhibitors, Src family kinase inhibitors, Syk inhibitors, mTOR inhibitors, and HSP90 inhibitors. Other powerful inducers are IFNs, which were reported to enhance differentiation with ATRA. Although clinical trials for these kinase modulators remain scarce, their mechanisms of action have been, at least partly, clarified. The Raf/MEK/ERK MAPK pathway and the RARα downstream are affected by many of the kinase inhibitors and IFNs and seem to play a pivotal role for the induction of myeloid differentiation. Further clarification of the mechanisms, as well as the establishment of efficient combination therapies with the kinase inhibitors or IFNs, may lead to the development of effective therapeutic strategies for AML.

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