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Metformin Is an AMP Kinase-Dependent Growth Inhibitor for Breast Cancer Cells

Recent population studies provide clues that the use of metformin may be associated with reduced incidence and improved prognosis of certain cancers. This drug is widely used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, where it is often referred to as an “insulin sensitizer” because it not only lowers blood glucose but also reduces the hyperinsulinemia associated with insulin resistance. As insulin and insulin-like growth factors stimulate proliferation of many normal and transformed cell types, agents that facilitate signaling through these receptors would be expected to enhance proliferation. We show here that metformin acts as a growth inhibitor rather than an insulin sensitizer for epithelial cells. Breast cancer cells can be protected against metformin-induced growth inhibition by small interfering RNA against AMP kinase. This shows that AMP kinase pathway activation by metformin, recently shown to be necessary for metformin inhibition of gluconeogenesis in hepatocytes, is also involved in metformin-induced growth inhibition of epithelial cells. The growth inhibition was associated with decreased mammalian target of rapamycin and S6 kinase activation and a general decrease in mRNA translation. These results provide evidence for a mechanism that may contribute to the antineoplastic effects of metformin suggested by recent population studies and justify further work to explore potential roles for activators of AMP kinase in cancer prevention and treatment. (Cancer Res 2006; 66(21): 10269-73)

Published on 09-08-2010
Authors: Mahvash Zakikhani, Ryan Dowling, I. George Fantus, Nahum Sonenberg and Michael Pollak
Source: Cancer Res November 1, 2006 66; 10269