The IGF axis is a tightly controlled endocrine system that regulates cell growth and development, known to have an important function in cancer biology. IGF1 and IGF2 can promote cancer growth in a GH-independent manner both through paracrine and autocrine secretion and can also confer resistance to chemotherapy and radiation. Many alterations of this system have been found in neoplasias, including increased expression of ligands and receptors, loss of heterozygosity of the IGF2 locus and increased IGF1R gene copy number. The IGF1 network is an attractive candidate for targeted therapy, including receptor blockade with monoclonal antibodies and small molecule inhibitors of receptor downstream signaling. This article reviews the role of the IGF axis in the initiation and progression of cancer, and describes the recent advances in IGF inhibition as a therapeutic tool.
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