Insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro. The type I somatomedin receptor (SR), expressed in these cells, may mediate the mitogenic effects of these peptides. We have examined the effect of type I SR blockade on human breast cancer growth with a monoclonal antibody (α-IR3) that blocks the receptor binding domain. α-IR3 inhibited binding of 125I-IGF-I in all breast cancer cell lines tested. Binding affinity of α-IR3 was 2 to 5 times higher than that of IGF-I in MDA-231 (Kd 2.1 nm) and MCF-7 cells (Kd 0.6 nm), respectively. In the presence of 10% calf serum, the antibody inhibited anchorage-independent growth of six of seven breast cancer cell lines. This inhibition was reversible with excess IGF-I. In serum-free medium, α-IR3 blocked IGF-I-stimulated DNA synthesis in four of four breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, ZR75-1, MDA-231, and HS578T). However, the antibody did not inhibit basal growth of any of the breast cancer cell lines in serum-free conditions. In three estrogen receptor-positive, estrogen-responsive breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, ZR75-1, and T47D), type I SR blockade with α-IR3 failed to block estrogen-stimulated DNA synthesis or cell proliferation, indicating that secreted IGF activity is not the sole mediator of the growth effects of estrogen. In conclusion, antibody-mediated type I SR blockade does not inhibit basal growth of breast cancer cells under serum-free conditions, arguing against a critical autocrine role of endogenously secreted IGF activity in vitro. However, type I SR blockade inhibits breast cancer cell growth in the presence of serum, suggesting that serum IGFs might be critical endocrine or paracrine regulators of human breast cancer.


Supported in part by NIH Grants R01 CA 30251 and P01 30195 and by a Veterans Administration Career Development Award.

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