Insulin supplementation attenuates cancer-induced cardiomyopathy and slows tumor disease progression

JCI Insight. 2017 May 18;2(10):e93098. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.93098.


Advanced cancer induces fundamental changes in metabolism and promotes cardiac atrophy and heart failure. We discovered systemic insulin deficiency in cachectic cancer patients. Similarly, mice with advanced B16F10 melanoma (B16F10-TM) or colon 26 carcinoma (C26-TM) displayed decreased systemic insulin associated with marked cardiac atrophy, metabolic impairment, and function. B16F10 and C26 tumors decrease systemic insulin via high glucose consumption, lowering pancreatic insulin production and producing insulin-degrading enzyme. As tumor cells consume glucose in an insulin-independent manner, they shift glucose away from cardiomyocytes. Since cardiomyocytes in both tumor models remained insulin responsive, low-dose insulin supplementation by subcutaneous implantation of insulin-releasing pellets improved cardiac glucose uptake, atrophy, and function, with no adverse side effects. In addition, by redirecting glucose to the heart in addition to other organs, the systemic insulin treatment lowered glucose usage by the tumor and thereby decreased tumor growth and volume. Insulin corrected the cancer-induced reduction in cardiac Akt activation and the subsequent overactivation of the proteasome and autophagy. Thus, cancer-induced systemic insulin depletion contributes to cardiac wasting and failure and may promote tumor growth. Low-dose insulin supplementation attenuates these processes and may be supportive in cardio-oncologic treatment concepts.

Keywords: Cardiology; Oncology.