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Diabetes drug kills cancer stem cells in combination treatment in mice
Date:9/14/2009

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and HMS associate professor of medicine, who was not involved in the study

Cancer stem cells are a shifty target, Polyak said. For example, any cancer cell can acquire the properties of a cancer stem cell, and cancer stem cells can change into non-stem cancer cells, which can be just as deadly. Clinical trials in people are needed to test these ideas, Polyak said.

The Struhl paper is an offshoot of a larger project in his lab to systematically track how gene activity changes when cells transform into cancer. These changes were remarkably similar to gene dynamics in diabetes and other inflammatory conditions.

The researchers reasoned that if a common genetic pathway underlies different diseases, drugs that work against one disease might work against another. In a screen, the most effective drug inhibiting the transformation of cells into cancer was metformin, which led to the experiments in this paper.

The team was further encouraged by the low dose of metformin needed for the effect in the laboratory, compared to the amount needed for analogous molecular experiments in basic diabetes research. The relative dosage in people for treating or preventing cancer is unknown and untested.


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Contact: Carol Cruzan Morton
carol_morton@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-3121
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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