Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)

The insulin receptor substrate (IRS) proteins: at the intersection of metabolism and cancer.

PMID 21597332


Increasing evidence supports a connection between cancer and metabolism and emphasizes the need to understand how tumors respond to the metabolic microenvironment and how tumor cell metabolism is regulated. The insulin receptor (IR) and its close family member the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) mediate the cellular response to insulin in normal cells and their function is tightly regulated to maintain metabolic homeostasis. These receptors are also expressed on tumor cells and their expression correlates with tumor progression and poor prognosis. Understanding how the IR/IGF-1R pathway functions in tumors is increasing in importance as the efficacy of drugs that target metabolic pathways, such as metformin, are investigated in prospective clinical trials. This review will focus on key signaling intermediates of the IR and IGF-1R, the Insulin Receptor Substrate (IRS) proteins, with an emphasis on IRS-2, and discuss how these adaptor proteins play a pivotal role at the intersection of metabolism and cancer.