Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Solving the mystery of an old diabetes drug that may reduce cancer risk

Research opens exciting new avenues in cancer prevention

In 2005, news first broke that researchers in Scotland found unexpectedly low rates of cancer among diabetics taking metformin, a drug commonly prescribed to patients with Type II diabetes. Many follow-up studies reported similar findings, some suggesting as much as a 50-per-cent reduction in risk.

How could this anti-diabetic drug reduce the risk of developing cancer and what were the mechanisms involved?

In a paper published today in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, researchers from McGill University and the University of Montreal reported an unexpected finding: they learned that exposure to metformin reduces the cellular mutation rate and the accumulation of DNA damage. It is well known that such mutations are directly involved in carcinogenesis, but lowering cancer risk by inhibiting the mutation rate has never been shown to be feasible.

"It is remarkable that metformin, an inexpensive, off-patent, safe and widely used drug, has several biological actions that may result in reduced cancer risk – these latest findings suggest that it reduces mutation rate in somatic cells, providing an additional mechanism by which it could prevent cancer, explained Dr. Michael Pollak, professor in McGill's Departments of Medicine and Oncology, researcher at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital and the study's director.

The study, carried out in collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Gerardo Ferbeyre at Université de Montréal's Department of Biochemistry, suggests that metformin reduces DNA damage by reducing levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are known to be DNA-damaging agents produced as by-products when cells generate energy from nutrients. This action appears to take place in mitochondria, the cellular organelles that produce energy in cells by "burning" nutrients. Past studies have identified the mitochondria as a site of action for metformin related to its anti-diabetic function, but those studies had not considered that the drug also acted here to reduce ROS production, thereby reducing the rate at which DNA damage accumulates. "We found that metformin did not act as a classic antioxidant," said Ferbeyre. "The drug seems to selectively prevent ROS production from altered mitochondria such as those found in cells with oncogenic mutations."

"This study opens an exciting new direction in cancer-prevention research," said Pollak. "This doesn't imply, however, that metformin is now ready to be widely used for cancer prevention. We do not yet know if the drug accumulates to sufficient concentrations in human tissues at risk for cancer, such as breast or colon, when taken at the usual doses used for diabetes treatment, nor do we know if the findings from the original studies showing reduced cancer risk, which were carried out in diabetics, also apply to people without diabetes. But the possibility of protecting DNA from oxidative damage by the use of a well-tolerated drug was not expected, and this topic now needs further study at many levels."

Allison Flynn | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: DNA DNA damage Problem Solving cancer risk human tissue

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>