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    Metformin Shows Promise As Cancer Chemopreventive Drug

    Drug appears to decrease aberrant colonic foci in humans and lung tumor burden in mice

    WEDNESDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A trio of studies published online Sept. 1 in Cancer Prevention Research highlight the possibility that metformin and possibly other biguanide drugs may eventually prove useful in chemoprevention of various cancers, including lung and colon cancer.

    In the first study, Regan M. Memmott, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues exposed mice to tobacco carcinogens and then administered metformin to the mice, either orally or by intraperitoneal injection, in amounts which produced levels similar to those achievable in humans. Both methods of metformin administration resulted in a reduction in lung tumor burden (with oral administration, by up to 53 percent; with intraperitoneal administration, by 72 percent). Both routes of administration inhibited the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway involved in lung tumorigenesis.

    Another study involved humans with rectal aberrant crypt foci (ACF), an endoscopic surrogate marker of colorectal cancer. Kunihiro Hosono, of the Yokohama City University School of Medicine in Japan, and colleagues obtained baseline colonoscopies on two groups of patients without diabetes and then started one group on metformin. Blinded colonoscopies at one month showed a significant decrease in the number of ACFs and markers of cell proliferation in the treated group. Indexes of apoptosis remained unchanged in the surrounding normal colonic tissues. Michael Pollak, M.D., of McGill University in Montreal, conducted a review which outlined the potential applications of biguanides in oncology and the underlying laboratory-derived mechanism of action for this potential.

    "We now have both motivating data and the tools of epidemiology, laboratory studies, and translational research to pursue specific settings in which biguanides might be useful for cancer control," Pollak writes.

    Pollak disclosed consulting relationships with Merck, Novo-Nordisk, Lilly, Pfizer, and Sanofi-Aventis.

    Abstract - Memmott
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    Abstract - Hosono
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    Abstract - Pollak
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