December 10, 2012

Metformin is Not a One Trick Pony

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The journal Cancer has published results from a study at the Mayo Clinic finding that the popular Type 2 diabetes drug, metformin, improves survival chances for ovarian cancer patients.

Cancer feeds on glucose. Metformin decreases the level of sugar available from the diet. It also helps to suppress the production level of sugar by the liver. The serendipitous discovery of the powerful impact metformin has on ovarian cancer is profound.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic realized that 67% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer who also have Type 2 diabetes treated with metformin lived five years or more after their cancer diagnosis. The prognosis for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is grim. About 50% of women with ovarian cancer who do not take metformin survive five years.

How profound is the impact of metformin on ovarian cancer? The survival rate of 61 women taking metformin was compared to 178 women who were not taking the drug. The women taking metformin were nearly four times more likely to survive at least five more years than women not on the drug.

Ovarian cancers are very sensitive to chemotherapy and often respond well initially. Unfortunately, in most cases, ovarian cancer recurs. The benefit a drug like metformin could add to the treatment protocol of ovarian cancer is promising.

Currently, a study is ongoing to establish if metformin along with chemotherapy administered to women with advanced ovarian cancer will improve survival rate. One of the exclusion criteria for this study is diabetes. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are optimistic that all signs point to yes in the use of metformin to improve survival rates.

Unlike the discovery of Viagra for erectile dysfunction or Rogaine for hair loss, rather than hypertension drugs. this is not a happy accident. This is an unintentional clue to winning the war against a surreptitious savage. Metformin is not a one trick pony in this plot. It may very well be the War Horse.

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