A new Spanish study into the common type 2 diabetes drug metformin has found that small doses of the treatment could effectively kill off pancreatic cancer stem cells and could lower the risk of tumour growth or recurrence.
The laboratory research on mice, presented at a conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, is thought to be the first to indicate that metformin could be targeting tumor-initiating stem cells, the root cause of some cancers. When combining metformin with regular chemotherapy for treating pancreatic cancer, it managed to destroy both cancer stem cells and those differentiated cells that made up the tumour.
Researcher Christopher Heesche, from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid, said “It appeared that metformin merely arrested cancer cell growth in existing tumors, rather than destroying them.”
He added “Metformin targets the root of cancer, which has more of an effect on preventing cancer relapse.”
Metformin has been in the news lately as other studies have highlighted the beneficial effects of the drug for lowering the risk of breast cancer, with women taking it being found to be a quarter less likely to develop breast cancer over their lifetimes as compared to women who didn’t take the drug.

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