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Drug development

Antidiabetic agent could smother pancreatic cancer stem cells

Metformin, commonly used for diabetes, was found to shut down metabolism in pancreatic cancer stem cells, which can spread cancer around the body.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (micrograph pictured) is a cancer with rising incidence and very poor outcomes.Metformin, used for diabetes, was found to shut down metabolism in pancreatic cancer stem cells, which can spread cancer around the body

Source: KGH / Wikimedia Commons

New treatments are needed for patients diagnosed with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (micrograph pictured) and researchers have found the diabetes drug metformin shows promise in the laboratory  

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a cancer with rising incidence and very poor outcomes, and there is a lack of effective treatments.

Pancreatic cancers are made up of different populations of cells, including pancreatic cancer stem cells. These can renew themselves, and spread tumours around the body. Researchers at Queen Mary’s University, London, found that metformin, a commonly used diabetes drug, can kill cancer stem cells by stopping oxidative metabolism in mitochondria, effectively cutting off their energy supply. The cells can develop resistance, but this can be prevented or reversed with inhibitors of MYC — a transcription factor involved in metabolism.

This approach could lead to therapies that specifically kill pancreatic cancer stem cells, with the aim of reducing recurrence after treatment, conclude the authors in Cell Metabolism (online, 10 September 2015)[1].

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069408

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  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (micrograph pictured) is a cancer with rising incidence and very poor outcomes.Metformin, used for diabetes, was found to shut down metabolism in pancreatic cancer stem cells, which can spread cancer around the body

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