Role of the GH-IGF1 system in progression of cancer

Haim Werner*, Zvi Laron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Emerging evidence links the growth hormone (GH)-insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1) endocrine axis to cancer development. While this putative correlation is of major translational relevance, most clinical and epidemiological reports to date found no causal linkage between GH therapy and enhanced cancer risk. Thus, it is generally agreed that GH therapy constitutes a safe pharmacological intervention. The present review focuses on a number of issues in the area of GH-IGF1 action in cancer development. Emphasis is given to the idea that GH and IGF1 do not conform to the definition of oncogenic factors. Specifically, these hormones, even at high pharmacological doses, are unable to induce malignant transformation. However, the GH-IGF1 axis is capable of ‘pushing’ already transformed cells through the various phases of the cell cycle. Viral and cellular oncogenes require an intact IGF1 signaling pathway in order to elicit transformation; in other words, oncogenic agents adopt the IGF1 pathway. This universal mechanism of action of oncogenes has broad implications in oncology. Our review provides an in-depth analysis of the interplay between the GH-IGF1 axis and cancer genes, including tumor suppressors p53 and BRCA1. Finally, the safety of GH therapy in both children and adults needs further long-term follow-up studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111003
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Growth hormone (GH)
  • IGF1 receptor
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1)
  • Laron syndrome
  • Mechanisms of cancer protection


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