Targeting insulin receptor in breast cancer using small engineered protein scaffolds

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22 Scopus citations


Insulin receptor (InsR) and the type I insulin-like growth factor (IGF1R) are homologous receptors necessary for signal transduction by their cognate ligands insulin, IGF-I and IGF-II. IGF1R mAbs, intended to inhibit malignant phenotypic signaling, failed to show benefit in patients with endocrine-resistant tumors in phase III clinical trials. Our previous work showed that in tamoxifen-resistant cells, IGF1R expression was lacking, but InsR inhibition effectively blocked growth. In endocrine-sensitive breast cancer cells, insulin was not growth stimulatory, likely due to the presence of hybrid InsR/IGF1R, which has high affinity for IGF-I, but not insulin. Combination inhibition of InsR and IGF1R showed complete suppression of the system in endocrine-sensitive breast cancer cells. To develop InsR-binding agents, we employed a small protein scaffold, T7 phage gene 2 protein (Gp2) with the long-term goal of creating effective InsR inhibitors and diagnostics. Using yeast display and directed evolution, we identified three Gp2 variants (Gp2 #1, #5, and #10) with low nanomolar affinity and specific binding to cell surface InsR. These Gp2 variants inhibited insulin-mediated monolayer proliferation in both endocrine-sensitive and resistant breast cancer, but did not downregulate InsR expression. Gp2 #5 and Gp2 #10 disrupted InsR function by inhibiting ligand-induced receptor activation. In contrast, Gp2 #1 did not block InsR phosphorylation. Notably, Gp2 #1 binding was enhanced by pretreatment of cells with insulin, suggesting a unique receptor-ligand–binding mode. These Gp2 variants are the first nonimmunoglobulin protein scaffolds to target insulin receptor and present compelling opportunity for modulation of InsR signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1324-1334
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the assistance of the Flow Cytometry Shared Resource of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. D. Yee and J.Y. Chan were supported by NIH/NCIP50 CA116201, P30 CA077598, and Komen for the CureSAC110039. B.J. Hackel was supported by the University of Minnesota. The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

Publisher Copyright:
©2017 AACR.


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