Human breast cancer cells secrete and have membrane receptors for insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), a growth hormone-dependent peptide that stimulates cell replication. However, little is known about plasma concentrations of IGF-I in breast cancer patients. Plasma IGF-I levels are decreased in malnutrition, decline with advancing age, and are influenced by estrogen. We evaluated the effect of the antiestrogen agent tamoxifen on plasma IGF-I in 32 ambulatory breast cancer patients. Treatment with tamoxifen was associated with lower concentrations of plasma IGF-I (0.48 ± 0.3 unit/ml in treated versus 1.03 ± 0.6 units/ml in nontreated patients, P < 0.01). However, patients treated with tamoxifen did not differ from nontreated patients in age, menopause, duration since diagnosis, metastatic disease, recent weight loss, or measures of nutritional status. We conclude that tamoxifen therapy results in a reduction of plasma IGF-I concentration. We speculate that the antitumor action of tamoxifen in breast cancer is due in part to suppression of IGF-I.
This investigation was supported in part by American Cancer Society Institutional Award 156B-02 and Clinical Research Center USPHS-GCRC-RR109.