Background: Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) appear to influence the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro, and epidemiological studies suggest higher serum IGF-I levels increase the risk of breast cancer. IGF-I and IGFBP-3 have therefore been measured in women with advanced breast cancer to determine if changes in serum levels predict the response to treatment by chemotherapy.
Methods: Serum IGF-I and IGFBP-3 levels were measured in 14 patients before and after 1 week of chemotherapy. Changes in serum levels were compared with duration of survival.
Results: Mean basal serum levels of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 were not significantly different between patients with advanced breast cancer and controls or women with early breast cancer. Serum IGFBP-3 fell significantly 1 week after initiation of chemotherapy. Patient survival was not significantly related to baseline IGF-I or IGFBP-3 levels, but when the fall in serum levels 1 week after starting treatment was expressed either as absolute change or as a percentage of baseline, those individuals with a decrease in IGFBP-3 greater than the median had significantly poorer survival (median survival 5.5 months vs 18 months). These results were independent of other prognostic variables such as previous disease-free survival, and were also unaffected by the change in serum albumin with treatment. The fall in IGF-I and IGFBP-3 with chemotherapy mainly occurred in those with hepatic metastases, but prediction of survival was explained solely by the extent of the fall in IGFBP-3.
Conclusions: This preliminary study has shown that serum IGFBP-3 falls significantly following initiation of chemotherapy and the extent of reduction significantly predicts the response to treatment.