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Metformin May Help Fight Cancer

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:24 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Cancer, Metformin, Diabetes, Breast Cancer, Glucophage, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Metform, when combined with chemotherapy, helped kill tumor stem cells and reducing reccurence.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Metformin tablets/ author: Ashley Van Haeflen

May Starve Cancer

The drug, metformin, is the number one choice for treating diabetes.

Marketed as Glucophage, by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the drug may have a new application as a cancer fighter.

In a new study out of Harvard Medical School, low doses of metformin, added to a widely used chemotherapy, doxorubicin, shrank breast cancer tumors more effectively than chemotherapy alone, reports the Wall Street Journal. The tumors also were less likely to reoccur.

One theory is that the diabetes drug may actually deprive tumor cells of sugar, which fuels calories for growth.

Principal investigator, Kevin Struhl, says chemotherapy alone is effective against many tumors, but this study finds that the drug may be most effective against the generator of tumors, cancer stem cells.

“The problem is cancer stem cells acquire resistance” to treatment, he says, noting about 5 to 10 percent of tumor cells are stem cells. “They are able to regenerate the tumor and as a result you end up with a relapse.”

The report is published in the October edition of Cancer Research.

A clinical trial will test whether early-stage breast cancer patients who have had surgery and chemotherapy, respond to metformin alone.

A study from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that diabetic patients who also were on metformin were less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

Metformin was approved in 1994 to treat patients with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar. #


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