Background: Early analyses of human breast cancer identified high expression of the insulin-like growth factor type 1 receptor (IGF-1R) correlated with hormone receptor positive breast cancer and associated with a favorable prognosis, whereas low expression of IGF-1R correlated with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). We previously demonstrated that the IGF-1R acts as a tumor and metastasis suppressor in the Wnt1 mouse model of TNBC. The mechanisms for how reduced IGF-1R contributes to TNBC phenotypes is unknown.
Methods: We analyzed the METABRIC dataset to further stratify IGF-1R expression with patient survival and specific parameters of TNBC. To investigate molecular events associated with the loss of IGF-1R function in breast tumor cells, we inhibited IGF-1R in human cell lines using an IGF-1R blocking antibody and analyzed MMTV-Wnt1-mediated mouse tumors with reduced IGF-1R function through expression of a dominant-negative transgene.
Results: Our analysis of the Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium (METABRIC) dataset revealed association between low IGF-1R and reduced overall patient survival. IGF-1R expression was inversely correlated with patient survival even within hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, indicating reduced overall patient survival with low IGF-1R was not due simply to low IGF-1R expression within TNBCs. Inhibiting IGF-1R in either mouse or human tumor epithelial cells increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and activation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. IGF-1R inhibition in tumor epithelial cells elevated interleukin (IL)-6 and C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) expression, which was reversed by ROS scavenging. Moreover, the Wnt1/dnIGF-1R primary tumors displayed a tumor-promoting immune phenotype. The increased CCL2 promoted an influx of CD11b+ monocytes into the primary tumor that also had increased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, MMP-3, and MMP-9 expression. Increased MMP activity in the tumor stroma was associated with enhanced matrix remodeling and collagen deposition. Further analysis of the METABRIC dataset revealed an increase in IL-6, CCL2, and MMP-9 expression in patients with low IGF-1R, consistent with our mouse tumor model and data in human breast cancer cell lines.
Conclusions: Our data support the hypothesis that reduction of IGF-1R function increases cellular stress and cytokine production to promote an aggressive tumor microenvironment through infiltration of immune cells and matrix remodeling.
Keywords: Breast cancer; CCL2; Cellular stress; IGF-1R; IL-6; MMP; Wnt1.