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IGF1 and IGF2 are circulating peptide hormones and locally-acting growth factors with both paracrine and autocrine functions. IGF1 and IGF2 signal through a common tyrosine kinase receptor, the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R), and have mitogenic, cell survival, and insulin-like actions that are essential for embryogenesis, post-natal growth physiology, and breast development. The activities of IGF1 and 2 are tightly-regulated by a network of binding proteins and targeted degradation mechanisms. This complex regulatory system is disrupted in breast cancer, leading to excess IGF1R signaling. Evidence for this statement includes: a) breast cancers are infiltrated with IGF2 expressing stromal cells; b) mannose 6-phosphate/IGF2 receptor (M6P/IGF2R) is mutated in breast cancer, leading to loss of IGF2 degradation; c) IGF1R is overexpressed by malignant breast epithelial cells, and in some cases IGF1R is amplified; and d) complex changes in IGF binding protein expression occur during breast cancer progression which most likely also affect IGF1 and 2 signaling. The clinical importance of these epigenetic and genetic changes has recently been stressed by the finding that IGF1R signaling alters the apoptotic response of breast cancer cells to genotoxic stress and, in addition, IGF1R activation sensitizes cells to estrogen by inducing phosphorylation of the estrogen receptor. As a consequence of these findings, we propose that IGF analysis of breast cancer samples should shift from prognostic studies to an evaluation of IGF ligands, receptors, and binding proteins as resistance/sensitivity markers for radiation, chemotherapy, and endocrine therapy.


Journal article


Breast Cancer Res Treat

Publication Date





175 - 184


Apoptosis, Breast Neoplasms, Female, Humans, Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins, Prognosis, Receptor, IGF Type 1, Receptor, IGF Type 2, Somatomedins