In use for years, metformin has few side effects
An ancient herbal remedy that constitutes the active ingredient in a modern diabetes drug may soon play a new role in combating cancer, two studies show. The findings, published in the September Cancer Prevention Research, support earlier population studies suggesting that diabetes patients receiving the drug, called metformin, are less prone to develop cancer.
Metformin helps to stabilize blood sugar by decreasing the liver’s glucose output and increasing the sugar’s use by muscle tissue. Scott Lippman, an oncologist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, estimates that more than 40 million metformin prescriptions have been filled in the United States. “It’s been around for a while,” he says.
In one of the new studies, Atsushi Nakajima of Yokohama City University School of Medicine in Japan and colleagues measured how metformin affected the development of tiny lesions in the colon. These lesions, call