Diabetes medication inhibits growth of breast cancer cells
A common diabetes medication prevents certain natural and man-made chemicals from promoting breast cancer cell growth, according to a new study published in PloS One.
Metformin is an inexpensive drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. Population studies in the past indicate that metformin reduces the likelihood of cancers associated with diabetes. This new study provides the biological evidence to show how metformin works.
People living with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for several types of cancers, especially pancreatic, colorectal, breast and liver cancers.
A team of researchers spearheaded by James Trosko, pediatrics professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, began with the idea that man-made and natural chemicals encourage the growth of breast cancer cells.
To begin, the team grew small human breast tumors in culture dishes. They subjected them to natural estrogen, a potential breast tumor promoter. They also exposed the miniature tumors to man-made chemicals that are known to either promote tumors or disrupt the endocrine system. As expected, both the estrogen and the chemicals made the tumors grow and multiply.
The researchers then exposed the tumors to metformin. It greatly reduced the numbers and size of the pre-existing tumors, regardless of whether estrogen or endocrine-disrupting chemicals were used to grow the tumors in the first place.
“While future studies are needed to understand the exact mechanism by which metformin works to reduce the growth of breast cancers, this study reveals the need to determine if the drug might be used as a preventive drug and for individuals who have no indication of any existing cancers,” said Trosko.
Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or signs of insulin resistance are linked to a higher risk of certain cancers, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). High levels of insulin are linked to increases in insulin-like growth factor 1, which promotes cell growth.
These conditions share a common risk factor: high body fat. Modest weight loss of 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can delay or potentially prevent type 2 diabetes, according to a U.S. government study called the Diabetes Prevention Program.
Source: Michigan State University, American Institute for Cancer Research