Diffuse gliomas are highly lethal central nervous system malignancies which, unfortunately, are the most common primary brain tumor and also the least responsive to the very few therapeutic modalities currently available to treat them. IGFBP2 is a newly recognized oncogene that is operative in multiple cancer types, including glioma, and shows promise for a targeted therapeutic approach. Elevated IGFBP2 expression is present in high-grade glioma and correlates with poor survival. We have previously demonstrated that IGFBP2 induces glioma development and progression in a spontaneous glioma mouse model, which highlighted its significance and potential for future therapy. However, we did not yet know the key physiological pathways associated with this newly characterized oncogene.
We first evaluated human glioma genomics data harnessed from the publicly available Rembrandt source to identify major pathways associated with IGFBP2 expression. Integrin and ILK, among other cell migration and invasion-related pathways, were the most prominently associated. We confirmed that these pathways are regulated by IGFBP2 in glioma cells lines, and demonstrated that 1) IGFBP2 activates integrin α5β1, leading to the activation of key pathways important in glioma; 2) IGFBP2 mediates cell migration pathways through ILK; and 3) IGFBP2 activates NF-kB via an integrin α5 interaction. We then sought to determine whether this was a physiologically active signaling pathway in vivo by assessing its ability to induce glioma progression in the RCAS/tv-a spontaneous glioma mouse model. We found that ILK is a key downstream mediator of IGFBP2 that is required for the induction of glioma progression. Most significantly, a genetic therapeutic approach revealed that perturbation of any point in the pathway thwarted tumor progression, providing strong evidence that targeting the key players could potentially produce a significant benefit for human glioma patients. The elucidation of this signaling pathway is a critical step, since efforts to create a small molecule drug targeting IGFBP2 have so far not been successful, but a number of inhibitors of the other pathway constituents, including ILK, integrin and NF-kB, have been developed.