To determine whether modulation of insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 expression underlies the uterotropic effects associated with tamoxifen therapy in postmenopausal breast cancer patients.
Using immunohistochemical techniques, we analyzed 37 endometrial specimens from biopsies (n = 18) or hysterectomies (n = 19) for Ki-67, insulin-like growth factor-1, and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 expression. Specifically, five secretory- and three proliferative-phase endometrial specimens were used as controls; 20 specimens (including two endometrial adenocarcinomas) were analyzed from postmenopausal breast cancer patients treated with tamoxifen (20 mg/day) for at least 6 months; and nine endometrial adenocarcinoma specimens from patients not treated with tamoxifen were studied. Intensity of immunostaining was quantified using digitized imaging techniques.
Insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin-like growth factor-1-binding protein-1 were found to be expressed in normal and neoplastic endometrium of all patients, regardless of tamoxifen treatment. However, insulin-like growth factor-1 expression varied cyclically in histologically normal endometrium, was reduced in undifferentiated endometrial tumors, and was upregulated in tamoxifen-treated specimens. Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 immunostaining did not vary during the menstrual cycle, but it was reduced significantly in benign tamoxifen-exposed tissue and endometrial adenocarcinomas, regardless of degree of differentiation or tamoxifen exposure. No correlation was found between the expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 and the proliferative indices of the tissues examined.
The expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 in the uterus supports an autocrine and/or paracrine role for these proteins in endometrial physiology. Although further studies are needed, our investigation suggests that altered expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 may contribute to the uterotropic effects of tamoxifen.