Dysregulation of the cell cycle is a hallmark of cancer that leads to aberrant cellular proliferation. CDK4/6 are cyclin-dependent kinases activated in response to proliferative signaling, which induce RB hyper-phosphorylation and hence activation of E2F transcription factors, thus promoting cell cycle progression through the S phase. Pharmacologic inhibition of CDK4/6 by palbociclib, ribociclib, or abemaciclib has been showing promising activity in multiple cancers with the best results achieved in combination with other agents. Indeed, CDK4/6 inhibitors are currently approved in combination with endocrine therapy for the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Moreover, a number of clinical trials are currently underway to test the efficacy of combining CDK4/6 inhibitors with different drugs not only in breast but also in other types of cancer. Beyond the inhibition of cell proliferation, CDK4/6 inhibitors have recently revealed new effects on cancer cells and on tumor microenvironment. In particular, it has been reported that these agents induce a senescent-like phenotype, impact on cell metabolism and exert both immunomodulatory and immunogenic effects. Here we describe recent data on the anti-tumor effects of CDK4/6 inhibitors as single agents or in combined therapies, focusing in particular on their metabolic and immunomodulatory activities.
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