Primary and Permissive Actions of Insulin in Breast Cancer

  • Russell Hilf


During the past decade, more attention has been directed towards elucidation of the role of insulin as a regulatory factor in mammary cancer. This renewed interest can be attributed to a number of developments arising from research in the areas of diabetes and insulin action, such as a) development of techniques to prepare insulin with high radiospecific activity, providing a reagent for use in radioimmunoassay to measure physiological levels of insulin in blood, as well as a reagent to measure and characterize insulin receptors; b) ease of induction of diabetes with streptozotocin; c) continued improvement of in vitro organ and tissue culture techniques, enabling the investigator to examine hormone effects under a more “controlled” environment; and d) advances in our understanding of mechanisms of action of insulin, particularly at the membrane level. Although most of the above investigations have been applied to normal cells, such as adipocytes, hepatocytes, lymphocytes, etc., there is a need to ascertain whether such mechanisms exist in the transformed cells. Two of the well-established actions of insulin relate to regulation of glucose and amino acid entry into cells. Since it has been proposed by Holley (33) that substrate entry may be related to neoplastic cell growth, any hormone that may act as a regulator of substrate transport represents a potentially important factor in regulation of tumor growth. As such, insulin is a prime candidate for such a role and data will be presented to implicate insulin as a direct as well as a facilitative factor in regulation of mammary tumor growth.


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© Eden Press Inc. 1982

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  • Russell Hilf

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