Metformin together with a blood pressure drug can stop cancer tumours from growing by depleting them of energy, a study says.
The drug metformin has been used to treat type 2 diabetes for over 60 years, and researchers have been keen to test its effects in other health conditions including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and cancer.
Two years ago, researchers from Biozentrum University of Basel, one of the leading institutes worldwide for molecular and biomedical basic research, established the cancer-halting potential of metformin and syrosingopine, a blood pressure-lowering drug.
This new study, conducted by the team at Biozentrum along with Basilea Pharmaceutica International Ltd, has discovered how the drug combination works
The dose of metformin used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes will not prevent cancer tumour grow, but the drug can kill cancer cells when taken in combination with syrosingopine.
To grow and spread, cancer cells require a significant amount of energy. But a molecule standing the way of this energy requirement is fundamental to preventing tumour growth.
The NAD+ molecule generates energy from nutrients using the chemical NADH, but the combination of metformin and syrosingopine inhibits the chemical’s development.
Lead researcher Dr Don Benjamin said: “In order to keep the energy-generating machinery running, NAD+ must be continuously generated from NADH. Both metformin and syrosingopine prevent the regeneration of NAD+.”
The drugs work together by blocking the cellular pathways which help to regenerate NAD+, which leads to a decline in energy to the cancer cells and their death.
“[The combination of the two drugs, therefore] may prove a viable anticancer strategy.”
For the treatment to be successful, researchers will need to ensure that the treatment can be targeted at the cancerous cells and not healthy ones. The research represents an interesting look into how diabetes drugs could crossover into cancer treatment.
The findings appear online in the journal Cell Reports.

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