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Understanding the benefit of metformin use in cancer treatment

Ryan JO Dowling1, Pamela J Goodwin2 and Vuk Stambolic1*

Author affiliations

1 Ontario Cancer Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

2 Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Medicine 2011, 9:33  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-33

Published: 6 April 2011

Abstract

Biguanides have been developed for the treatment of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes. Recently, metformin, the most widely prescribed biguanide, has emerged as a potential anticancer agent. Epidemiological, preclinical and clinical evidence supports the use of metformin as a cancer therapeutic. The ability of metformin to lower circulating insulin may be particularly important for the treatment of cancers known to be associated with hyperinsulinemia, such as those of the breast and colon. Moreover, metformin may exhibit direct inhibitory effects on cancer cells by inhibiting mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and protein synthesis. The evidence supporting a role for metformin in cancer therapy and its potential molecular mechanisms of action are discussed.