Insulin-like growth factor receptor signaling in breast tumor epithelium protects cells from endoplasmic reticulum stress and regulates the tumor microenvironment

Alison E. Obr, Sushil Kumar, Yun Juan Chang, Joseph J. Bulatowicz, Betsy J. Barnes, Raymond B. Birge, Deborah A. Lazzarino, Emily Gallagher, Derek Leroith, Teresa L. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Early analyses of human breast cancer identified high expression of the insulin-like growth factor type 1 receptor (IGF-1R) correlated with hormone receptor positive breast cancer and associated with a favorable prognosis, whereas low expression of IGF-1R correlated with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). We previously demonstrated that the IGF-1R acts as a tumor and metastasis suppressor in the Wnt1 mouse model of TNBC. The mechanisms for how reduced IGF-1R contributes to TNBC phenotypes is unknown. Methods: We analyzed the METABRIC dataset to further stratify IGF-1R expression with patient survival and specific parameters of TNBC. To investigate molecular events associated with the loss of IGF-1R function in breast tumor cells, we inhibited IGF-1R in human cell lines using an IGF-1R blocking antibody and analyzed MMTV-Wnt1-mediated mouse tumors with reduced IGF-1R function through expression of a dominant-negative transgene. Results: Our analysis of the Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium (METABRIC) dataset revealed association between low IGF-1R and reduced overall patient survival. IGF-1R expression was inversely correlated with patient survival even within hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, indicating reduced overall patient survival with low IGF-1R was not due simply to low IGF-1R expression within TNBCs. Inhibiting IGF-1R in either mouse or human tumor epithelial cells increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and activation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. IGF-1R inhibition in tumor epithelial cells elevated interleukin (IL)-6 and C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) expression, which was reversed by ROS scavenging. Moreover, the Wnt1/dnIGF-1R primary tumors displayed a tumor-promoting immune phenotype. The increased CCL2 promoted an influx of CD11b+ monocytes into the primary tumor that also had increased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, MMP-3, and MMP-9 expression. Increased MMP activity in the tumor stroma was associated with enhanced matrix remodeling and collagen deposition. Further analysis of the METABRIC dataset revealed an increase in IL-6, CCL2, and MMP-9 expression in patients with low IGF-1R, consistent with our mouse tumor model and data in human breast cancer cell lines. Conclusions: Our data support the hypothesis that reduction of IGF-1R function increases cellular stress and cytokine production to promote an aggressive tumor microenvironment through infiltration of immune cells and matrix remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2018


  • Breast cancer
  • CCL2
  • Cellular stress
  • IGF-1R
  • IL-6
  • MMP
  • Wnt1


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