The role of epithelial growth factors and insulin growth factors in the adrenal neoplasms

Anna Angelousi, Georgios Kyriakopoulos, Narjes Nasiri-Ansari, Margarita Karageorgou, Eva Kassi


Human fetal and adult adrenal gland express both insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and IGF-2, their receptors (IGF-Rs) and a variety of specific IGF binding proteins suggesting their potential role in the regulation of adrenal growth and function. IGF-2 overexpression is essential for the growth of monoclonal lesions, such as large benign adenomas (ACA) and adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC) and has been found to contribute to tumorigenesis in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. IGF-2 is the most highly expressed gene observed in more than 85% of ACCs. However, no significant differences in clinical, biological and transcriptomic traits were found between tumors with high and low expression of IGF-2. On the contrary, the expression of IGF-1R, mediating the IGF-2 effects in vivo, was more discriminant between malignant (overexpression) and benign tumors. Data on the role of epithelial growth factor (EGF) and its receptor (EGF-R) in adrenocortical tumorigenesis are controversial. Several studies have shown EGF-R overexpression in ACCs but not in benign ACAs, suggesting that EGF-R could potentially be used as a marker for the differential diagnosis of ACAs and ACCs. Although, in vitro and animal studies provide promising results in the therapeutic role of IGF and EGF pathway inhibitors, the available data in humans are still not encouraging. Herein, we aim to present recent data on the role of IGF and EGF pathways in adrenal development and tumorigenesis and their potential implication in the treatment of the ACC, a rare malignancy with very poor prognosis.