Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Mien-Chie Hung, PhD

Committee Member

Hesham Amin, MD

Committee Member

Elsa Flores, PhD

Committee Member

David McConkey, PhD

Committee Member

Ennio Tasciotti, PhD


Brain metastasis is a common cause of mortality in cancer patients. Approximately 20-30% of breast cancer patients acquire brain metastasis, yet potential therapeutic targets remain largely unknown. The type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF- IR) is known to play a role in the progression of breast cancer and is currently being investigated in the clinical setting for various types of cancer. The present study demonstrates that the IGF-IR signaling axis is constitutively active in brain-seeking sublines of breast cancer cells, driving an increase in in vitro metastatic properties. We demonstrate that IGF-IR signaling is activated in an autocrine manner as a result of IGFBP3 overexpression in brain-seeking cells. Transient and stable knockdown of IGF-IR results in a downregulation of IGF-IR downstream signaling through phospho-AKT, as well as decreased in vitro migration and invasion of MDA- MB-231Br brain-seeking cells. Using an in vivo experimental brain metastasis model, we show that IGF-IR ablation attenuates the establishment of brain metastases and prolongs survival. Finally, we demonstrate that the malignancy of brain-seeking cells is attenuated by pharmacological inhibition with picropodophyllin, an IGF-IR-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Together, our data suggest that the IGF-IR is an important mediator of brain metastasis and its ablation delays the onset of brain metastases in our model system.


cell signaling, breast cancer, metastasis, IGF-IR, receptor tyrosine kinase