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Diabetes Drug Combination Can Eliminate Breast Cancers

-- A. Agrawal, PhD

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Breast cancers are virtually eliminated in mice treated with a combination of the diabetes drug metformin and the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin due to their ability to kill cancer stem cells, according to a study published online Sept. 14 in Cancer Research.

Noting that various studies have linked diabetes and cancer, Heather A. Hirsch, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues treated breast cancer cells with the diabetes drug metformin.

The researchers found that metformin inhibited the malignant transformation of human mammary epithelial cells and selectively killed cancer stem cells in four genetically distinct mammary adenocarcinoma cell lines. Metformin and doxorubicin killed both cancer stem cells and non-cancer stem cells. Combination treatment virtually eliminated human breast tumors in mice; while doxorubicin alone only reduced tumor volume two-fold and metformin alone had little effect. Tumors from mice treated with both drugs had almost no cancer stem cells, in contrast to tumors treated with doxorubicin. Mice treated with both drugs appeared to be tumor-free for at least two months after halting treatment.

"These results provide further evidence supporting the cancer stem cell hypothesis, and they provide a rationale and experimental basis for using the combination of metformin and chemotherapeutic drugs to improve treatment of patients with breast (and possibly other) cancers," Hirsch and colleagues conclude.

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Specialties Cardiology
Diabetes & Endocrinology
Internal Medicine
Family Practice

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