Disrupting insulin and IGF receptor function in cancer

Jingran Cao, Douglas Yee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system plays an important role in regulating normal cell proliferation and survival. However, the IGF system is also implicated in many malignancies, including breast cancer. Preclinical studies indicate several IGF blocking approaches, such as monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors, have promising therapeutic potential for treating diseases. Uniformly, phase III clinical trials have not shown the benefit of blocking IGF signaling compared to standard of care arms. Clinical and laboratory data argue that targeting Type I IGF receptor (IGF1R) alone may be insufficient to disrupt this pathway as the insulin receptor (IR) may also be a relevant cancer target. Here, we review the well-studied role of the IGF system in regulating malignancies, the limitations on the current strategies of blocking the IGF system in cancer, and the potential future directions for targeting the IGF system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number555
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by NIH/NCI, grant number R01CA237000 and P30-CA077598.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Insulin receptor
  • Insulin-like growth factors
  • Type I IGF receptor


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