Can This Diabetes Medication Slow Down the Progression of Lung Cancer?

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Lung cancer is not an easy cancer to treat because it’s usually picked up at an advanced stage.  The average person with a lung cancer diagnosis lives six months or less after hearing the news, making lung cancer the leading cause of cancer death in both sexes.  Now a new study shows that a drug used to treat diabetes called metformin could help slow down the progression of lung cancer.

Metformin for Cancer of the Lung

When researchers at the Cleveland Clinic looked at the records 157 diabetics who took metformin before being diagnosed with lung cancer and compared their outcome to those who didn’t take this medication, they came to some interesting conclusions.  Not only did the lung cancer patients who took metformin survive longer, they had a lower risk of developing metastases at distant sites, which almost always indicates a poor prognosis.  Even when the researchers controlled for other factors such as smoking history, sex, age, occupation, and other variables that could influence survival, those who took metformin had a better outcome.

Metformin for Cancer: What Is Metformin?

Metformin is a drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes.  It works primarily by increasing the sensitivity of cells in the body to the hormone insulin.  People with type 2 diabetes have cells that aren’t sensitive enough to insulin, and they can’t use the insulin they have floating around in their bloodstream.  Metformin helps make cells more sensitive to the insulin diabetics already have.  It also suppresses glucose production by the liver and decreases absorption of glucose from the digestive tract.  These effects are all beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.

How Does Metformin Slow Down Lung Cancer Progression?

Researchers don’t know the exact mechanism, but other small studies suggest that diabetics who take metformin have a lower risk of some types of cancer.  In one mouse study, metformin even prolonged life by 20%.  Needless to say, scientists are intrigued by the potential metformin has for preventing and treating cancer – and for prolonging life.  Metformin is a seemingly safe medication - with the biggest side effect being stomach upset.  On the other hand, it shouldn’t be used by anyone with kidney disease, lung disease, liver disease, or congestive heart failure.

Metformin for Cancer of the Lung: The Bottom Line?

Preliminarily, metformin looks promising for slowing down the progression of lung cancer.  It may also have the potential for preventing or treating other cancers as well - although more research is needed.  Anything that can help this devastating disease should certainly get the attention of researchers.

References:

Drugs.com. "Scientists discover anti-ageing effects of metformin diabetes drug."