American Association for Cancer Research

AACR Press Releases

Metformin Appeared to Slow Prostate Cancer Growth


March 31, 2012

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  • Preliminary data show diabetes drug reduced cancer growth.
  • No grade 3 adverse events reported.
  • Findings have implications for men with diabetes, prediabetes.

CHICAGO — The use of metformin in men with prostate cancer before prostatectomy helped to reduce certain metabolic parameters and slow the growth rate of the cancer, according to the results of a phase II study.

Anthony M. Joshua, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., staff medical oncologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital, University Health Network in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, presented the data at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012, held here March 31 - April 4.

Metformin is the most commonly prescribed medication for diabetes. Prior laboratory research has suggested that metformin may also help to improve prognosis in patients with prostate cancer by slowing the growth of the cancerous cells.

To follow up on the laboratory clues, Joshua and colleagues evaluated 22 men with confirmed prostate cancer who had been assigned up to 500 mg of metformin three times a day prior to undergoing prostatectomy.

“This gave us the ability to compare what the prostate cancer looked like when it was first diagnosed to what it looked like when the prostate cancer was removed from the body,” said Joshua. “We were able to directly measure the effect of metformin on the prostate cancer.”

Patients were assigned metformin for a median duration of 41 days. During that time, none of the men reported grade 3 adverse events, and all of them underwent prostatectomy with no adverse effect related to use of metformin.

The researchers found that metformin significantly reduced fasting glucose, insulin growth factor-1, body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio.

In addition, “although these are preliminary results, metformin appeared to reduce the growth rate of prostate cancer in a proportion of men,” Joshua said. “Also, it appeared to reduce one of the main growth pathways that may have contributed to the overall growth of the tumor.”

These results may have implications for men with prostate cancer who also have diabetes or early undiagnosed diabetes and for men with prostate cancer whose tumors have characteristics that make them sensitive to metformin, according to Joshua.

“This research builds on the hypothesis that metformin has a role in prostate cancer,” he said. “Exactly what that role will be will depend on the results of the analysis currently being completed by our study team and others worldwide.”

Joshua is particularly interested in better defining the precise mechanism of action and the subpopulation of patients with prostate cancer for whom metformin has the potential to improve outcomes.

This study was funded by The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, the Jewish General Hospital Foundation (Montreal) and the Terry Fox Foundation.

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About the AACR

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR’s membership includes 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 18,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of individual and team science grants in cancer research that have the potential for patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.  

For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
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Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org
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