The activation of the insulinlike growth factor 1/IGF-1 receptor system (IGF1/IGF1-R) has recently emerged as critical event in transformation and tumorigenicity of several murine and human tumors. Expression of IGF1 and of IGF1-R has been demonstrated in normal and neoplastic intestinal cell lines of rats and humans. However, the modulation of IGF1-R expression during the progression from normal colonic mucosa to adenoma, to carcinoma, and to metastasis, has not been evaluated. In this retrospective study, we investigated the expression of IGF1-R in 12 colonic adenomas (AD), 36 primary colorectal adenocarcinomas (CA), and in 27 corresponding metastases (MT). Normal colonic mucosa (N) was adjacent to the CA in 34 cases. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues of each case were immunostained using the avidin-biotin-peroxidase method. We used an anti-IGF1-R rabbit polyclonal antibody (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, CA; dilution 1:100). Positive staining was quantitated by CAS-200. Moderate to strong cytoplasmic immunostaining was observed in 34 of 36 CA (96%), and in 25 of 27 MT (93%). In all of the positive MTs, the intensity of the staining was always strong. In 10 of 12 ADs (83%), only a faint cytoplasmic stain was identified. Normal mucosa when present was negative. Strong IGF1-R positivity correlated with higher grade and higher-stage tumors (P < .01). These data suggest a role of IGF1-R expression during the progression of colorectal adenoma to carcinoma. An increased number of IGF1-R receptors may favor the metastasis of colorectal cancer.