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Mol Cancer Ther. 2009 Apr;8(4):821-33. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-09-0058.

Dual silencing of insulin-like growth factor-I receptor and epidermal growth factor receptor in colorectal cancer cells is associated with decreased proliferation and enhanced apoptosis.

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  • 1Institute of Human Genetics, Department of General and Visceral Surgery, University of Göttingen, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Overexpression and activation of tyrosine kinase receptors are common features of colorectal cancer. Using the human colorectal cancer cell lines DLD-1 and Caco-2, we evaluated the role of the insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) receptor (IGF-IR) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in cellular functions of these cells. We used the small interfering RNA (siRNA) technology to specifically down-regulate IGF-IR and EGFR expression. Knockdown of IGF-IR and EGFR resulted in inhibition of cell proliferation of DLD-1 and Caco-2 cells. An increased rate of apoptosis was associated with siRNA-mediated silencing of IGF-IR and EGFR as assessed by activation of caspase-3/caspase-7. The combined knockdown of both EGFR and IGF-IR decreased cell proliferation and induced cell apoptosis more effectively than did silencing of either receptor alone. Comparable effects on cell proliferation and apoptosis were observed after single and combinational treatment of cells by the IGF-IR tyrosine kinase inhibitor NVP-AEW541 and/or the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib. Combined IGF-IR and EGFR silencing by either siRNAs or tyrosine kinase inhibitors diminished the phosphorylation of downstream signaling pathways AKT and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-1/2 more effectively than did the single receptor knockdown. Single IGF-IR knockdown inhibited IGF-I-dependent phosphorylation of AKT but had no effect on IGF-I- or EGF-dependent phosphorylation of ERK1/2, indicating a role of EGFR in ligand-dependent ERK1/2 phosphorylation. The present data show that inhibition of the IGF-IR transduction cascade augments the antipoliferative and proapoptotic effects of EGFR inhibition in colorectal cancer cells. A clinical application of combination therapy targeting both EGFR and IGF-IR could be a promising therapeutic strategy.

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