Introduction: The acquisition of a metastatic phenotype is the critical event that determines patient survival from breast cancer. Several receptor tyrosine kinases have functions both in promoting and inhibiting metastasis in breast tumors. Although the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) has been considered a target for inhibition in breast cancer, low levels of IGF1R expression are associated with worse overall patient survival. Methods: To determine how reduced IGF1R impacts tumor phenotype in human breast cancers, we used weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) of Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium (METABRIC) patient data to identify gene modules associated with low IGF1R expression. We then compared these modules to single cell gene expression analyses and phenotypes of mouse mammary tumors with reduced IGF1R signaling or expression in a tumor model of triple negative breast cancer. Results: WGCNA from METABRIC data revealed gene modules specific to cell cycle, adhesion, and immune cell signaling that were inversely correlated with IGF1R expression in human breast cancers. Integration of human patient data with single cell sequencing data from mouse tumors revealed similar pathways necessary for promoting metastasis in basal-like mammary tumors with reduced signaling or expression of IGF1R. Functional analyses revealed the basis for the enhanced metastatic phenotype including alterations in E- and P-cadherins. Discussion: Human breast and mouse mammary tumors with reduced IGF1R are associated with upregulation of several pathways necessary for promoting metastasis supporting the conclusion that IGF1R normally helps maintain a metastasis suppressive tumor microenvironment. We further found that reduced IGF1R signaling in tumor epithelial cells dysregulates cadherin expression resulting in reduced cell adhesion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research
- breast cancer
- insulin-like growth factor receptor