'Big'-insulin-like growth factor-II signaling is an autocrine survival pathway in gastrointestinal stromal tumors

New treatment targets need to be identified in gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) to extend the treatment options for patients experiencing failure with small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as imatinib. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-II acts as an autocrine factor in several tumor types by binding to IGF receptor type 1 (IGF-1R) and/or the insulin receptor (IR) isoform A. The aim of the present study was to investigate the putative role of unprocessed pro-IGF-II, called 'big'-IGF-II, in GISTs. The imatinib-sensitive GIST882 and imatinib-resistant GIST48 cell lines secrete high levels of big-IGF-II as demonstrated by ELISA and Western blotting analyses. IR isoform A mRNA and protein expression, but not that of IGF-1R, was found in these KIT mutant cell lines and in KIT and platelet-derived growth factor receptor α-mutant GIST specimens. Down-regulation of either big-IGF-II or IR affected AKT and MAPK signaling and reduced survival in both cell lines. Disruption of big-IGF-II signaling in combination with imatinib had additive cytotoxic effects on GIST882 cells. IGF-II mRNA as determined by in situ hybridization was present in 91% of 60 primary GISTs. Immunohistochemical analysis of big-IGF-II protein expression was associated with moderate- to high-risk tumors compared with tumors with a lower risk classification (P < 0.028). Our data put forth the big-IGF-II/IR isoform A axis as an autocrine survival pathway and potential therapeutic target in GISTs.

B. Rikhof, W.T. van der Graaf, A.J. Suurmeijer, J. van Doorn, G.J. Meersma, P.J. Groenen, E.M. Schuuring, C. Meijer, S. de Jong
181 (1): 303-312
Published in: 
The American Journal of Pathology
Date of publication: 
July, 2012
Status of the publication: