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Impact of Diabetes Drug Metformin on Certain Cancers

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  • Metformin is an oral hypoglycemic drug used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
  • A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital found metformin to be effective in preventing and suppressing cancer growth.
  • By determining the genetic pathway, metformin will be able to slow down cancer growth and promote healthy aging.

Impact of Diabetes Drug Metformin on Certain Cancers

Diabetes drug Metformin was recently found to have the ability to block the growth of human cancer cells and prolong the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans (C.elegans) roundworm, finds a study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

The research findings were published in the journal Cell.


Alexander Soukas, MD, PhD, MGH Center for Human Genetic Research, said, "We found that metformin reduces the traffic of molecules into and out of the nucleus - the 'information center' of the cell."

"Reduced nuclear traffic translates into the ability of the drug to block cancer growth and, remarkably, is also responsible for metformin's ability to extend lifespan. By shedding new light on metformin's health-promoting effects, these results offer new potential ways that we can think about treating cancer and increasing healthy aging."

Research Study on Metformin Drug

Even though previous studies suggest that metformin drug reduces the risk of certain cancers. The current study mainly focused on the impact of the diabetes drug in prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers.

The research team also suggested that round worm could be used as a model to study the effect of metformin on cancer, since the drug was found to slow down the growth of C.elegans round worm.

Study Findings

Metformin action on cancer was based on two elements of a single genetic pathway which includes a Nuclear pore complex which allows molecules into and out of the nucleus and an enzyme called ACAD10.

The drug is found to suppress the mitochondrial activity and reduce energy thereby restricting the traffic inside the nuclear pore. This move may shut the important cellular growth called mTORC1 and activates the ACAD10 enzyme which in turn slows down the growth and prolongs the lifespan of C.elegans.

The research team confirmed that without the complete signaling pathway which involves mitochondrial activity, nuclear pore restriction and activation of ACAD10 expression, cancer cells were not sensitive for metformin like drugs in human skin cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Soukas, said, "Amazingly, this pathway operates identically, whether in the worm or in human cancer cells."

"Our experiments showed two very important things: if we force the nuclear pore to remain open or if we permanently shut down ACAD10, metformin can no longer block the growth of cancer cells. That suggests that the nuclear pore and ACAD10 may be manipulated in specific circumstances to prevent or even treat certain cancers."

The author also added that by determining the action of ACAD10 on metfomin's anticancer activity may provide new insights to develop therapeutic targets for cancer and may also help to promote healthy aging.

Metformin Drug

Metformin belongs to the biguanide class of oral hypoglycemic agents. It helps to control the amount of glucose present in the blood. It is one of the commonly used drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Side Effects of Metformin
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Heart burn
  • Headache
  • Constipation

  1. Alexander A. Soukas et.al. An Ancient, Unified Mechanism for Metformin Growth Inhibition in C. elegans and Cancer. Cell; (2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2016.11.055
  1. Metformin - (https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a696005.html )

Source: Medindia

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