Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Co-inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor and insulin-like growth factor receptor 1 enhances radiosensitivity in human breast cancer cells

Ping Li1, Marlon R Veldwijk2, Qing Zhang1, Zhao-bin Li1, Wen-cai Xu1 and Shen Fu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Sixth People’s Hospital of Jiao Tong University, 600 Yi Shan Rd., Shanghai 200233, People’s Republic of China

2 Department of Radiation Oncology, University Medical Center Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:297  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-297

Published: 19 June 2013



Over-expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) or insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) have been shown to closely correlate with radioresistance of breast cancer cells. This study aimed to investigate the impact of co-inhibition of EGFR and IGF-1R on the radiosensitivity of two breast cancer cells with different profiles of EGFR and IGF-1R expression.


The MCF-7 (EGFR +/−, IGF-1R +++) and MDA-MB-468 (EGFR +++, IGF-1R +++) breast cancer cell lines were used. Radiosensitizing effects were determined by colony formation assay. Apoptosis and cell cycle distribution were measured by flow cytometry. Phospho-Akt and phospho-Erk1/2 were quantified by western blot. In vivo studies were conducted using MDA-MB-468 cells xenografted in nu/nu mice.


In MDA-MB-468 cells, the inhibition of IGF-1R upregulated the p-EGFR expression. Either EGFR (AG1478) or IGF-1R inhibitor (AG1024) radiosensitized MDA-MB-468 cells. In MCF-7 cells, radiosensitivity was enhanced by AG1024, but not by AG1478. Synergistical radiosensitizing effect was observed by co-inhibition of EGFR and IGF-1R only in MDA-MB-468 cells with a DMF10% of 1.90. The co-inhibition plus irradiation significantly induced more apoptosis and arrested the cells at G0/G1 phase in MDA-MB-468 cells. Only co-inhibition of EGFR and IGF-1R synergistically diminished the expression of p-Akt and p-Erk1/2 in MDA-MB-468 cells. In vivo studies further verified the radiosensitizing effects by co-inhibition of both pathways in a MDA-MB-468 xenograft model.


Our data suggested that co-inhibition of EGFR and IGF-1R synergistically radiosensitized breast cancer cells with both EGFR and IGF-1R high expression. The approach may have an important therapeutic implication in the treatment of breast cancer patients with high expression of EGFR and IGF-1R.

Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR); Insulin-like Growth Factor Receptor 1 (IGF-1R); Radiosensitivity; Breast cancer; Co-inhibition