New research began after scientists found metformin prevented tumors in mice and diabetics were less likely to develop a malignancy if they were taking the five-cents-a-day pill than if they were on other diabetes medications.
The medicine is dispensed about 120 million times annually, according to a 2010 report in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. If the latest trials on breast and other tumours are successful, the drug could become a cheap weapon in the fight against a myriad diseases, including pancreatic and ovarian cancers. All told, cancer kills one in eight people and is the second-leading cause of death in most developed countries.
“The hope is that if it does show safety and efficacy, it would be available in a cost-effective way,” said Chandini Portteus, vice-president of research, evaluation and scientific programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a Dallas-based breast cancer advocacy group. “It would be wonderful for patients if we had something that we knew worked and was safe and low-cost.”
The organization has spent about $10 million investigating using metformin on breast cancer, Portteus said. “We have to turn over every single rock to determine what the options are for patients who need them.”
Metformin was the seventh-most-dispensed medicine in the U.S. in 2011, according to a list published by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics in April that ranked a group of painkillers. A pack of 84 500-milligram tablets of the diabetes pill, taken twice daily, costs Britain’s National Health Service 1.37 pounds ($2.16), or about three pence (about five cents) a day.
The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is studying metformin in at least eight trials.
“It is safe and it is cheap,” said Donghui Li, an epidemiologist and professor at the centre. “It reduces the risk and has better survival” in studies she’s done in pancreatic cancer patients.
Patients who took metformin had a 60 per cent lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to a study Li published in 2009, in which she compared cancer patients taking metformin to people not on metformin. Metformin didn’t benefit patients whose pancreatic cancer had already spread to other tissues, Li reported this year in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. Patients with malignancies confined to the pancreas survived longer if they were on metformin — an average of four months longer, she found.
More research is needed to confirm those benefits as the disease is developing, Li said.
Further studies have been hampered by a lack of funding, Li said. Metformin lost patent protection years ago, meaning manufacturers no longer reap significant profits from its sale.
TUNE IN: Diabetes Roundtable Inspired by Taylor Swift on #BlogTalkRadio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/divatalkradio1/2012/09/11/diabetes-roundtable-inspired-by-mystery-diva
DON’T MISS: Diabetes Roundtable Goes PINK! Mr. Divabetic salutes Breast Cancer Survivors living with diabetes with the Charlie’s Angels of Outreach, makeup artist Kiauna Hunt and Mama Rose Marie. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/divatalkradio1/2012/10/09/diabetes-roundtable-inspired-by-nicki-minaj
Saturday, October 13, 2012, 11 AM – 4 PM
Jefferson Alumni Hall , First Floor Eakins Lounge 10th and Locust Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Look who’s on the red tomato carpet with Mr. Divabetic at Plus Night Out -NYC
Meet Mr. Divabetic on his quest to glamorize good health at Divabetic – Makeover Your Diabetes outreach event in Philadelphia, PA, the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Expo in Pittsburgh, PA and the Taking Control Of Your Diabetes Conferences & Health Fairs in San Diego, CA and Austin, TX.
For sponsorship opportunities and upcoming outreach event details visit: www.divabetic.org and Divabetic’s Facebook’s Group and Fan pages.