by | Feb 2, 2017 | Cancer

Recent Advances in the Use of Metformin in Cancer Treatment

Diabetes drug Metformin holds promise for cancer treatment and prevention

Use of Metformin — commonly used as the front-line treatment for type 2 diabetes — improves survival for some breast cancer patients, and shows promise as a treatment for patients diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia, according to the results of two new studies presented by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: I am very excited about the off-label use of Metformin in cancer treatment. As I discuss here, Metformin has multiple beneficial effects in cancer patients. The most obvious benefit of Metformin is its action on both the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and glucose receptors. We know that cancer cells have many more receptors for both IGF-1 and glucose when compared to healthy cells, so taking advantage of this difference is part of an effective treatment regimen. I recommend Metformin in the off-label treatment of cancer for almost all of my patients.

Treating cancer with drugs for diabetes and hypertension

A combination of a diabetes medication and an antihypertensive drug can effectively combat cancer cells. The team of researchers led by Prof. Michael Hall at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has also reported that specific cancer cells respond to this combination of drugs. The results of the study have now been published in Science Advances.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: It is always exciting to learn that medications which have been approved for one indication also work safely and effectively for another indication. In this case, a drug to treat high blood pressure and a drug to treat diabetes are shown to work very well together to kill cancer cells. This is the essence of science-based medicine, and is why research is so important. My approach is this: if a treatment shows promise, has little to no potential adverse effects, and works in conjunction with other treatments, we should use it!

Diabetes Drug Metformin May Fight Cancer

One of the oldest, cheapest, and most widely used diabetes drugs may be a promising new cancer treatment. In new research from the Mayo Clinic, ovarian cancer patients who took the drug metformin survived longer than patients who did not take it. The study is just one of dozens under way worldwide examining the drug — which costs just pennies a pill — as a treatment for breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers.
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Dr. Stegall’s comments: Here is another example of Metformin showing a positive effect in cancer treatment. The results in this study were clear: patients who took Metformin had a better survival rate than women who did not. We are learning more every day about how Metformin works to fight cancer, and at this point we know that it works through multiple mechanisms. Very exciting!

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