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This article is the author's final published version in Biomedicines, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2023, Article number 40.

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Copyright © 2023 by the authors.


The paraneoplastic syndrome referred in the literature as non-islet-cell tumor hypoglycemia (NICTH) and extra-pancreatic tumor hypoglycemia (EPTH) was first reported almost a century ago, and the role of cancer-secreted IGF-II in causing this blood glucose-lowering condition has been widely established. The landscape emerging in the last few decades, based on molecular and cellular findings, supports a broader role for IGF-II in cancer biology beyond its involvement in the paraneoplastic syndrome. In particular, a few key findings are constantly observed during tumorigenesis, (a) a relative and absolute increase in fetal insulin receptor isoform (IRA) content, with (b) an increase in IGF-II high-molecular weight cancer-variants (big-IGF-II), and (c) a stage-progressive increase in the IGF-II autocrine signal in the cancer cell, mostly during the transition from benign to malignant growth. An increasing and still under-exploited combinatorial pattern of the IGF-II signal in cancer is shaping up in the literature with respect to its transducing receptorial system and effector intracellular network. Interestingly, while surgical and clinical reports have traditionally restricted IGF-II secretion to a small number of solid malignancies displaying paraneoplastic hypoglycemia, a retrospective literature analysis, along with publicly available expression data from patient-derived cancer cell lines conveyed in the present perspective, clearly suggests that IGF-II expression in cancer is a much more common event, especially in overt malignancy. These findings strengthen the view that (1) IGF-II expression/secretion in solid tumor-derived cancer cell lines and tissues is a broader and more common event compared to the reported IGF-II association to paraneoplastic hypoglycemia, and (2) IGF-II associates to the commonly observed autocrine loops in cancer cells while IGF-I cancer-promoting effects may be linked to its paracrine effects in the tumor microenvironment. Based on these evidence-centered considerations, making the autocrine IGF-II loop a hallmark for malignant cancer growth, we here propose the functional name of IGF-II secreting tumors (IGF-IIsT) to overcome the view that IGF-II secretion and pro-tumorigenic actions affect only a clinical sub-group of rare tumors with associated hypoglycemic symptoms. The proposed scenario provides an updated logical frame towards biologically sound therapeutic strategies and personalized therapeutic interventions for currently unaccounted IGF-II-producing cancers.

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