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Diabetes Drug Fights Breast Cancer

Metformin Kills Breast Cancer Stem Cells, May Fight Many Cancers

Easier Cancer Chemo With Metformin?

Another reason researchers are excited about the study findings is that metformin and standard chemotherapy seem to make each other work better.

"Because of this synergy with chemotherapy, metformin could be used with lower doses of chemotherapy," Struhl suggests. "Chemotherapy is quite a toxic thing for people to deal with, and if one could lower the dose that would be very nice."

Metformin itself has an outstanding safety record.

"This drug at low doses can be considered a very good candidate for cancer prevention before a person has any cancer at all," Rauscher said. "The hope is we can use a drug like metformin and continue to deplete the levels of these inherently chemotherapy-resistant, dormant cancer stem cells."

Can Metformin Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence?

Ligibel, who was not involved in the Struhl study, has argued that metformin should be tested in people.

Taking her own advice, she is participating in a human study led by Canada's national cancer institute that will test whether metformin can prevent breast cancer from coming back after treatment. The study, which will take place at multiple cancer centers in Canada and the U.S., has not yet begun enrollment.

Unfortunately, Ligibel said, there are no plans for studies combining metformin with chemotherapy. But Struhl said that because metformin is an approved drug, such studies could begin relatively soon.

"We are hoping for researchers to actually try that experiment," Struhl said. "The idea of using this as a combined treatment is the main point of our paper."

"These concepts should be moved forward in clinical trials," Rauscher agreed.


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