Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide, with 25% of cases harboring oncogenic Kirsten rat sarcoma (KRAS). Although KRAS direct binding to and activation of PI3K is required for KRAS-driven lung tumorigenesis, the contribution of insulin receptor (IR) and insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) in the context of mutant KRAS remains controversial. Here, we provide genetic evidence that lung-specific dual ablation of insulin receptor substrates 1/2 (Irs1/Irs2), which mediate insulin and IGF1 signaling, strongly suppresses tumor initiation and dramatically extends the survival of a mouse model of lung cancer with Kras activation and p53 loss. Mice with Irs1/Irs2 loss eventually succumb to tumor burden, with tumor cells displaying suppressed Akt activation and strikingly diminished intracellular levels of essential amino acids. Acute loss of IRS1/IRS2 or inhibition of IR/IGF1R in KRAS-mutant human NSCLC cells decreases the uptake and lowers the intracellular levels of amino acids, while enhancing basal autophagy and sensitivity to autophagy and proteasome inhibitors. These findings demonstrate that insulin/IGF1 signaling is required for KRAS-mutant lung cancer initiation, and identify decreased amino acid levels as a metabolic vulnerability in tumor cells with IR/IGF1R inhibition. Consequently, combinatorial targeting of IR/IGF1R with autophagy or proteasome inhibitors may represent an effective therapeutic strategy in KRAS-mutant NSCLC.
Keywords: Kras; amino acids; autophagy; insulin receptor substrates; non–small-cell lung cancer.