Overproduction of IGF-2 drives a subset of colorectal cancer cells, which specifically respond to an anti-IGF therapeutic antibody and combination therapies

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Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a heterogeneous disease with a broad spectrum of genetic and epigenetic changes. A comprehensive molecular characterization of CRC by The Cancer Genome Atlas Network detected the overexpression of the insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) gene, encoding a ligand for the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R), in a subset of CRC tumors. In this study, we investigated the oncogenic potential of IGF-2 in IGF2-overexpressing CRC models and the efficacy of MEDI-573, an IGF-1/2-neutralizing antibody. We found that a subset of CRC cell lines express high IGF-2 levels owing to an increased DNA copy number and hypermethylation in the H19 promoter of the IGF2 gene. MEDI-573 efficiently neutralized IGF-2 and induced apoptosis, which resulted in significant tumor growth inhibition in CRC mouse models that express high levels of IGF-2. These effects were specific to CRCs overexpressing IGF-2, as MEDI-573 did not affect the growth CRC cell lines with normal levels. Moreover, blockade of IGF-2 by MEDI-573 modulated other signaling pathways, suggesting combination therapies with inhibitors of these pathways. Indeed, in vivo efficacy was significantly enhanced when MEDI-573 was used in combination with trastuzumab, AZD2014 (dual mTORC1/2i), AZD5363 (AKTi) and selumetinib (AZD6244/ARRY-142886, MEK1/2i) or cetuximab. These results demonstrate that overexpressed IGF-2 is the major tumorigenic driver in a subset of CRCs and encourage testing of MEDI-573, alone and in combinations, in IGF2-overexpressing CRC patients.

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We thank Mohammed Dar, Parthiv Mahadevia, Dirk Mendel, Robert Sikorski, Teresa Klinowska, Sabina Cosulich, Barry Davies and Stephen Green for scientific input and manuscript review. This work was supported by MedImmune.

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Correspondence to R E Hollingsworth.

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The authors are full-time employees of MedImmune.

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