Introduction: Hyperinsulinemia, which is common in early type 2 diabetes (T2D) as a result of the chronically insulin-resistant state, has now been identified as a specific factor which can worsen breast cancer prognosis. In breast cancer, a high rate of mortality persists due to the emergence of pulmonary metastases.
Methods: Using a hyperinsulinemic mouse model (MKR+/+) and the metastatic, c-Myc-transformed mammary carcinoma cell line Mvt1, we investigated how high systemic insulin levels would affect the progression of orthotopically inoculated primary mammary tumors to lung metastases.
Results: We found that orthotopically injected Mvt1 cells gave rise to larger mammary tumors and to a significantly higher mean number of pulmonary macrometastases in hyperinsulinemic mice over a period of six weeks (hyperinsulinemic, 19.4 ± 2.7 vs. control, 4.0 ± 1.3). When Mvt1-mediated mammary tumors were allowed to develop and metastasize for approximately two weeks and were then surgically removed, hyperinsulinemic mice demonstrated a significantly higher number of lung metastases after a four-week period (hyperinsulinemic, 25.1 ± 4.6 vs. control, 7.4 ± 0.42). Similarly, when Mvt1 cells were injected intravenously, hyperinsulinemic mice demonstrated a significantly higher metastatic burden in the lung than controls after a three-week period (hyperinsulinemic, 6.0 ± 1.63 vs. control, 1.5 ± 0.68). Analysis of Mvt1 cells both in vitro and in vivo revealed a significant up-regulation of the transcription factor c-Myc under hyperinsulinemic conditions, suggesting that hyperinsulinemia may promote c-Myc signaling in breast cancer. Furthermore, insulin-lowering therapy using the beta-adrenergic receptor agonist CL-316243 reduced metastatic burden in hyperinsulinemic mice to control levels.
Conclusions: Hyperinsulinemia in a mouse model promotes breast cancer metastasis to the lung. Therapies to reduce insulin levels in hyperinsulinemic patients suffering from breast cancer could lessen the likelihood of metastatic progression.