Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase and activated insulin-like growth actor-1 receptor/insulin receptor: Potential therapeutic targets in chordoma

Josh Sommer, Doha M. Itani, Kelly C. Homlar, Vicki L. Keedy, Jennifer L. Halpern, Ginger E. Holt, Herbert S. Schwartz, Cheryl M. Coffin, Michael J. Kelley, Justin M.M. Cates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Currently there is no effective chemotherapy for chordoma. Recent studies report coexpression of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) and its cognate ligand in chordoma, but it is unknown whether this receptor tyrosine kinase is activated in these tumours. Additionally, genetic studies have confirmed frequent deletions of chromosome 9p in chordomas, which encompasses the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A (CDKN2A) locus. Another gene in this region, methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP), is an essential enzyme of the purine salvage pathway and has therapeutic relevance because MTAP-deficient cells are particularly sensitive to inhibitors of de novo purine synthesis. We investigated whether these pathways might be potential therapeutic targets for chordoma. Paraffin-embedded tissue samples from 30 chordomas were analysed by immunohistochemistry for expression of the phosphorylated isoforms of IGF1R or the insulin receptor (pIGF1R/pIR) and selected downstream signalling molecules, including BCL2-associated agonist of cell death protein (BAD). Expression of CDKN2A and MTAP proteins was also assessed. Skeletal chondrosarcomas, benign notochordal cell tumours, and fetal notochord were studied for comparison. Phosphorylated IGF1R/IR was detected in 41% of chordomas, together with activated downstream signalling molecules, and pIGF1R/pIR was absent in benign notochordal cell tumours and fetal notochord. Thirty-nine per cent of chordomas were negative for MTAP immunoreactivity. Patients with pIGF1R/pIR-positive tumours showed significantly decreased median disease-free survival in multivariate survival analysis (p = 0.036), whereas phosphorylation of BAD at serine-99 was found to be associated with a favourable prognosis (p = 0.002). Approximately 40% of chordomas demonstrate evidence of activation of the IGF1R/IR signalling pathway or loss of a key enzyme in the purine salvage pathway. Aberrant signalling cascades and disrupted metabolic pathways such as these may represent opportunities for novel targeted therapeutic approaches for the treatment of chordoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-617
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • BAD
  • CDKN2A
  • Chordoma
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin receptor
  • Insulinlike growth factor-1 receptor
  • Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase
  • Notochord
  • Sacrum
  • Skull base

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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