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Journal of Oncology
Volume 2012, Article ID 635614, 19 pages
Review Article

The Insulin and IGF-I Pathway in Endocrine Glands Carcinogenesis

Endocrinology, Department of Health Sciences, Magna Græcia University of Catanzaro, Campus Universitario, Località Germaneto, 88100 Catanzaro, Italy

Received 3 May 2012; Accepted 20 June 2012

Academic Editor: Marialuisa Appetecchia

Copyright © 2012 Roberta Malaguarnera et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Endocrine cancers are a heterogeneous group of diseases that may arise from endocrine cells in any gland of the endocrine system. These malignancies may show an aggressive behavior and resistance to the common anticancer therapies. The etiopathogenesis of these tumors remains mostly unknown. The normal embryological development and differentiation of several endocrine glands are regulated by specific pituitary tropins, which, in adult life, control the function and trophism of the endocrine gland. Pituitary tropins act in concert with peptide growth factors, including the insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), which are considered key regulators of cell growth, proliferation, and apoptosis. While pituitary TSH is regarded as tumor-promoting factor for metastatic thyroid cancer, the role of other pituitary hormones in endocrine cancers is uncertain. However, multiple molecular abnormalities of the IGF system frequently occur in endocrine cancers and may have a role in tumorigenesis as well as in tumor progression and resistance to therapies. Herein, we will review studies indicating a role of IGF system dysregulation in endocrine cancers and will discuss the possible implications of these findings for tumor prevention and treatment, with a major focus on cancers from the thyroid, adrenal, and ovary, which are the most extensively studied.