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Open Access Research article

A moderate elevation of circulating levels of IGF-I does not alter ErbB2 induced mammary tumorigenesis

Robert K Dearth12, Isere Kuiatse1, Yu-Fen Wang1, Lan Liao3, Susan G Hilsenbeck1, Powel H Brown1, Jianming Xu3 and Adrian V Lee1*

Author Affiliations

1 Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

2 Department of Biology, University of Texas-Pan American, 1201 West University Drive, Edinburg, TX, 78539, USA

3 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:377  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-377

Published: 25 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Epidemiological evidence suggests that moderately elevated levels of circulating insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) are associated with increased risk of breast cancer in women. How circulating IGF-I may promote breast cancer incidence is unknown, however, increased IGF-I signaling is linked to trastuzumab resistance in ErbB2 positive breast cancer. Few models have directly examined the effect of moderately high levels of circulating IGF-I on breast cancer initiation and progression. The purpose of this study was to assess the ability of circulating IGF-I to independently initiate mammary tumorigenesis and/or accelerate the progression of ErbB2 mediated mammary tumor growth.

Methods

We crossed heterozygous TTR-IGF-I mice with heterozygous MMTV-ErbB2 mice to generate 4 different genotypes: TTR-IGF-I/MMTV-ErbB2 (bigenic), TTR-IGF-I only, MMTV-ErbB2 only, and wild type (wt). Virgin females were palpated twice a week and harvested when tumors reached 1000 mm3. For study of normal development, blood and tissue were harvested at 4, 6 and 9 weeks of age in TTR-IGF-I and wt mice.

Results

TTR-IGF-I and TTR-IGF-I/ErbB2 bigenic mice showed a moderate 35% increase in circulating total IGF-I compared to ErbB2 and wt control mice. Elevation of circulating IGF-I had no effect upon pubertal mammary gland development. The transgenic increase in IGF-I alone wasn't sufficient to initiate mammary tumorigenesis. Elevated circulating IGF-I had no effect upon ErbB2-induced mammary tumorigenesis or metastasis, with median time to tumor formation being 30 wks and 33 wks in TTR-IGF-I/ErbB2 bigenic and ErbB2 mice respectively (p = 0.65). Levels of IGF-I in lysates from ErbB2/TTR-IGF-I tumors compared to ErbB2 was elevated in a similar manner to the circulating IGF-I, however, there was no effect on the rate of tumor growth (p = 0.23). There were no morphological differences in tumor type (solid adenocarcinomas) between bigenic and ErbB2 mammary glands.

Conclusion

Using the first transgenic animal model to elevate circulating levels of IGF-I to those comparable to women at increased risk of breast cancer, we showed that moderately high levels of systemic IGF-I have no effect on pubertal mammary gland development, initiating mammary tumorigenesis or promoting ErbB2 driven mammary carcinogenesis. Our work suggests that ErbB2-induced mammary tumorigenesis is independent of the normal variation in circulating levels of IGF-I.