It has been recently discovered that Metformin, an inexpensive drug used for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, may prove effective for treating cancer as well. Metformin treats diabetes by helping the body to use insulin more effectively and it also lowers glucose production in the liver. Studies have found that people taking it are at lower risk of contracting certain types of cancer and researchers at the University of California, San Diego want to know why as there would be obvious benefits in the fight to treat cancer.
Two new studies by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania) revealed that the use of Metformin improves the survival odds for some breast cancer patients and might also be used as a treatment for endometrial hyperplasia (a precancerous condition that can develop in the lining of the uterus). The findings were presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting and published in the journal eLife. Patients who started using Metformin after being diagnosed with cancer were almost 50 percent more likely to survive than non-users.
The study that focused specifically on the efficacy of using Metformin to treat women newly diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia was conducted on 18 participants. Fifty-six percent responded to treatment and the effect was most marked in women who had simple hyperplasia without complications or irregularities. This is a condition when an organ or tissue becomes enlarged due an increase in the reproduction of its cells which could signal an initial stage in the development of cancer. The typical method of treating endometrial hyperplasia is through the usage of progesterone-based therapies in the form of injections, intrauterine devices, and oral medications. Side effects include weight gain, mood swings, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Hysterectomies which involve the surgical removal of the uterus are also another common form of therapy for women who have completed child-bearing or who are post-menopausal.
Dr. Emily Ko, an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said that Metformin presented an alternative for treating certain types of endometrial hyperplasia and that more studies would make it easier to identify which patients would be most suitable for the treatment and what would be the most suitable dosages of the drug.