A drug called Metformin is putting in long hours helping people who have diabetes. It helps by controlling a patient’s blood sugar and making them more sensitive to insulin. But it’s looking like diabetes isn’t the only thing on Metformin’s resume. Soon, it may be used as a cancer drug as well.
A preliminary study presented on Saturday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in Chicago showed results that suggest Metformin slowed growth in prostate cancer tumors. The study itself involved 22 men with prostate cancer, all scheduled to have their prostates removed. Some of them took the would-be cancer drug roughly seven weeks before. The prostates were removed, and researchers from Toronto compared them, finding that tumors were growing more slowly in men taking Meformin than those who didn’t. These findings, coupled with other studies published in various AACR journals, show hopeful signs that the diabetes drug may also end up being a cancer drug as well.
One study examined 302 patients with pancreatic cancer. 117 took Metformin. Researchers found that the one-year survival rate for patients taking Metformin was 64% compared to 46% on patients not taking the diabetes drug. After two years, the survival rate was 30% for those on Metformin and 15% for those not taking the drug. The findings were published in Clinical Cancer Research.
In another study, liver cancer tumors grew less in mice taking Metformin than in mice who didn’t get it. Researchers found that Metformin prevented the formation of fat in the liver, which helped keep the cancer at bay. The study was published in Cancer Prevention Research.
Another mouse study had researchers inducing animals to grow pre-cancerous lesions in their mouths. Mice taking Metformin had fewer oral cancers, and the tumors that did grow were much smaller. The results of this study were also published in Cancer Prevention Research.
Metformin is derived from the French lilac plant, Galega officinalis. This report in the journal of Practical Diabetes states that it is “reputed to be the most widely prescribed agent in the treatment of diabetes.”