Inexpensive diabetes pill Metformin could do double duty as a cancer treatment.
Metformin is the subject of about 50 ongoing studies around the world to determine whether it could play a role in the fight against cancer. Scientific data already indicates that that the drug may prevents tumors in mice.
If clinical trials are successful, the “the drug could become a cheap weapon in the fight against a myriad of diseases including pancreatic and ovarian cancers,” according to BloombergBusinessweek. Metformin apparently only costs about five cents a pill. The theory is that diabetics taking Metaformin are less likely to develop cancer than those patients on other diabetes drugs.
Bloomberg explains that by “lowering blood-glucose levels and sensitizing cells to the effects of insulin, Metformin may help control levels of the hormone, which is implicated in cell division and cancer.”
Approved back in 1958, Metformin — the most commonly prescribed drug for controlling blood sugar — is derived from the French lilac plant Galega officinalis and was used in the Middle Ages as a remedy for frequent urination.
According to Bloomberg, Dr. Donghui Li of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston claimed that Metformin “is safe and it is cheap” and that it provides a better outcome for pancreatic cancer patients. Dr. Li published a study in 2009 suggesting that those taking Metformin had a 60 percent lower risk of developing that form of cancer, although a subsequent paper by Dr. Li suggested that the drug provided no benefit if pancreatic cancer had spread to other tissues.
Researchers are in the process of pooling their data to try to sort out for which kinds of cancer Metaformin might offer the most possible protection against.
World Heath Organization projections suggest that overall global cancer deaths will increase to 13.1 million by the year 2030.