Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a highly vascular tumour and is the most common neoplasm associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) infection. Growth factors, in particular vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), have been shown to play an important role in its development. The role of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) in the pathophysiology of different tumours led us to evaluate the role of IGF system in KS. The IGF-I receptors (IGF-IR) were identified by immunohistochemistry in biopsies taken from patients with different AIDS/HIV-related KS stages and on KSIMM cells (an established KS-derived cell line). Insulin-like growth factor-I is a growth factor for KSIMM cells with a maximum increase of 3H-thymidine incorporation of 130±27.6% ( P<0.05) similar to that induced by VEGF and with which it is additive (281±13%) ( P<0.05). Moreover, specific blockade of the receptor (either by α IR3 antibody or by picropodophyllin, a recently described selective IGF-IR tyrosine phosphorylation inhibitor) induced KSIMM apoptosis, suggesting that IGF-IR agonists (IGF-I and -II) mediate antiapoptotic signals for these cells. We were able to identify an autocrine loop essential for KSIMM cell survival in which IGF-II is the IGF-IR agonist secreted by the cells. In conclusion, IGF-I pathway inhibition is a promising therapeutical approach for KS tumours.