A new study has found that an anti-diabetic drug can increase the potency of cancer vaccines by boosting the immune system.
Tests on mice, conducted by researchers at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, have found that metformin, used for Type 2 diabetes, helps the body's T-cells work more effectively.
These cells, the body's key defenders against disease, 'remember' former infections or vaccinations, enabling them to fight subsequent illness.
"We serendipitously discovered that the metabolizing, or burning, of fatty acids by T cells following the peak of infection is critical to establishing memory in those T cells," said senior author Yongwon Choi, PhD, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
"As a consequence, we used the widely prescribed anti-diabetic drug metformin, which is known to operate on fatty-acid metabolism, to enhance this process," Choi added.
Postdoctoral fellow and first author Erika Pearce, PhD, said: "We have shown experimentally in mice that metformin increases T-cell memory as well as the ensuing protective immunity of an experimental anti-cancer vaccine."
Choi added: "These findings were unanticipated, but are potentially extremely important and could revolutionize current strategies for both therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines."
The findings are described this week in an advanced online publication of Nature.