Bisphosphonates suppress insulin-like growth factor 1-induced angiogenesis via the HIF-1alpha/VEGF signaling pathways in human breast cancer cells

Int J Cancer. 2010 Jan 1;126(1):90-103. doi: 10.1002/ijc.24710.


Adjunctive chemotherapy with bisphosphonates has been reported to delay bone metastasis and improve overall survival in breast cancer. Aside from its antiresorptive effect, bisphosphonates exhibit antitumor activities, in vitro and in vivo, via several mechanisms, including antiangiogenesis. In this study, we investigated the potential molecular mechanisms underlying the antiangiogenic effect of non-nitrogen-containing and nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates, clodronate and pamidronate, respectively, in insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 responsive human breast cancer cells. We tested whether bisphosphonates had any effects on hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha/vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) axis that plays a pivotal role in tumor angiogenesis, and our results showed that both pamidronate and clodronate significantly suppressed IGF-1-induced HIF-1alpha protein accumulation and VEGF expression in MCF-7 cells. Mechanistically, we found that either pamidronate or clodronate did not affect mRNA expression of HIF-1alpha, but they apparently promoted the degradation of IGF-1-induced HIF-1alpha protein. Meanwhile, we found that the presence of pamidronate and clodronate led to a dose-dependent decease in the newly-synthesized HIF-1alpha protein induced by IGF-1 in breast cancer cells after proteasomal inhibition, thus, indirectly reflecting the inhibition of protein synthesis. In addition, our results indicated that the inhibitory effects of bisphosphonates on the HIF-1alpha/VEGF axis are associated with the inhibition of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin signaling pathways. Consistently, we demonstrated that pamidronate and clodronate functionally abrogated both in vitro and in vivo tumor angiogenesis induced by IGF-1-stimulated MCF-7 cells. These findings have highlighted an important mechanism of the pharmacological action of bisphosphonates in the inhibition of tumor angiogenesis in breast cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Primers
  • Diphosphonates / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / physiology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers
  • Diphosphonates
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt