To investigate the potential value of targeting insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) in breast cancer, we examined the effects of NVP-AEW541, a selective small-molecule inhibitor of the IGF-1R tyrosine kinase, in a panel of 16 breast cancer cell lines. All cell lines expressed IGF-1R, but MCF-7 expressed much higher levels of insulin receptor substrate-1 (IRS-1) than the others. NVP-AEW541 was more potent at inhibiting growth of MCF-7 cells as compared to the others (IC(50), 1 microM vs. approximately 7 microM). Comparing MCF-7 to T47D cells, which express IGF-1R at a level identical to MCF-7 but have less than 1/30 the amount of IRS-1, NVP-AEW541 caused cell-cycle arrest at the G1-S boundary, reduced in vitro cell migration, and enhanced the cytotoxic effects of vinorelbine and paclitaxel in MCF-7, but not in T47D. While NVP-AEW541 decreased the phosphorylation of IGF-1R in both cell lines, it inhibited phosphorylation of Akt and disrupted the IRS-1/PI3K complex only in MCF-7. These findings suggest that inhibiting IGF-1R may be an effective therapeutic strategy for breast cancers that co-express IGF-1R and IRS-1 at high levels.