Priya Menon Priya Menon Scientific Media Editor at Curetalk

Diabetes Drug Metformin, Joins The Fight Against Cancer

Metformin attacks cancer stem cells

Diabetes drug, Metformin, attacks cancer stem cells in pancreatic cancer.

In the last few years, metformin, a low dose drug used for glucose control in type 2 diabetes has been increasing found to fight cancer and reduce cancer risk in those who use it continuously.

Metformin Attacks Cancer Stem Cells

In a new study, Metformin, a diabetes drug has been found to destroy cancer stem cells. Low doses of the drug destroyed pancreatic stem cells and thereby reduced risk of tumor growth and recurrence.

This is not the first time that metformin has joined the bandwagon against cancer. Metformin has previously been found to reduce breast, ovarian, cancer risk. Women who were administered metformin were found to be 25% less at risk of developing breast cancer when compared to women who were not.

The new study, in a mice model, was able to observe that metformin may be targeting the tumor-initiating stem cells in the cancer. The study involved administering metformin combined with a standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The results showed that the diabetic drug was able to get rid of all cancer stem cells as well as differentiated cells found in a tumor. Dr. Heeschen, professor for experimental medicine at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid, Spain, explained that in the study, metformin seemed to arrest cancer cell growth rather than destroy them and hence, metformin may be effective in preventing cancer relapse.

Metformin is currently used in second phase treatment but it may prove its worth even if used in first phase. However, metformin should be used in combination with chemotherapy. The study results were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research.

Metformin Reduces Cancer Risk

In a systemic review and meta analysis of studies on cancer risk in type 2 diabetic patients, Espinoza-Peralta and his team found that there was a 38% reduction in relative risk of developing cancer with daily continuous use of metformin when compared to those who were not exposed to the drug. The analysis also brought to notice that the reduced risk of cancer extended to certain specific cancers like colon and breast cancer. (People with type 2 diabetes have been found to have colorectal cancer and breast cancer more often.) According to Espinoza-Peralta, metformin regulates activity of an enzyme that suppresses cell growth.

There are over hundreds of studies listed in Pubmed on metformin and its fight against cancer.

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