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Diabetes Drug Metformin Might Also Help Fight Cancer
Date:4/1/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- A diabetes medication used by millions is now showing promise against a variety of different cancers.

Two new clinical studies to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Chicago, found that metformin (also known by the brand name Glucophage, among others), appeared linked to a slowing in the rate of prostate cancer growth in certain patients, and in prolonging life for early-stage pancreatic cancer patients.

Other studies, done either in the lab or in animals, also hint that the drug might have an effect against liver or oral tumors, as well as certain forms of melanoma.

The findings have sparked interest in the cancer field and do seem promising, but much more research needs to be done before the drug can be recommended as a cancer treatment, experts said.

"There are very exciting clues from laboratory studies and population studies that metformin . . . may improve cancer outcomes or lower cancer risk," said Dr. Michael Pollak, professor of oncology and of medicine at McGill University in Montreal. "However, we need more laboratory and clinical studies to find the best dose to use, to understand in what disease situations it may help most, and also to determine if metformin itself or a metformin derivative would be most suitable for trials."

Metformin has also shown promise against colon and breast cancer, noted Pollak, who is a co-author on the prostate cancer trial.

For that trial, 22 men with prostate cancer received 500 milligrams of metformin three times a day after their diagnosis but before they were scheduled to undergo removal of the prostate gland, a procedure known as prostatectomy.

After an average treatment time of 41 days, men taking metformin showed a slowing in the growth of cancer cells in the prostate after it had been removed versus in
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