Importance: A phase 1 study has reported that dry eye disease is the most common adverse effect of human exposure to the antibody figitumumab, an anticancer drug that prevents insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) from binding to its receptor. We hypothesized that the mechanism underlying this effect is the inhibition of IGF-1 action in epithelial cells of the meibomian gland.
Objectives: To test the hypothesis that IGF-1 stimulates meibomian gland function in vitro and to examine whether growth hormone, a closely related hormone of IGF-1, has the same effect. DESIGN, SETTING, AND MATERIAL: Immortalized human meibomian gland epithelial cells were cultured in the presence or the absence of IGF-1, growth hormone, and an IGF-1 receptor-blocking antibody. Signaling pathways, cell proliferation, neutral lipid staining, and a key protein involved in lipid biogenesis were evaluated.
Intervention: Application of IGF-1 and growth hormone to human meibomian gland epithelial cells.
Main outcomes and measures: Immunoblotting, cell counting, and neutral lipid staining. RESULTS Insulin-like growth factor 1 activated the phosphoinositol 3-kinase/Akt and forkhead box O1 pathways (showing a dose-dependent effect on immunoblotting), stimulated cellular proliferation (about 1.8-fold increase in cell number), increased sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 expression (about 3-fold increase on immunoblotting), and promoted lipid accumulation in human meibomian gland epithelial cells (about 2-fold increase in lipid staining). These IGF-1 actions, which may be blocked by cotreatment with the anti-IGF-1 antibody, were accompanied by inconsistent effects on extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation. We were not able to demonstrate activation of Akt, forkhead box O1, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, Janus kinase 2, or signal transducers and activators of transcription 5, induced cell proliferation, or lipid accumulation in these cells by growth hormone application.
Conclusions and relevance: Our results support the hypothesis that IGF-1 acts on human meibomian gland epithelial cells and may explain why treatment with figitumumab, the IGF-1 inhibitor, causes dry eye disease. Ophthalmic care for dry eye disease may be needed when patients with cancer undergo treatment with drugs that inhibit IGF-1 action.