10p-a-day drugs taken for diabetes are now being touted as a way for sufferers of breast cancer to receive treatment. A new test that has been developed by scientists can determine patients who are likely to benefit from this cheap new treatment option. In patients where the cancer cells feed off of high-energy compounds, cancerous tumors were found to be more likely to return once they had been fought off, spread to other parts of the body, or cause the patient to die. Metformin, the diabetes drug that stops the supply of fuel for aggressive cancerous cells, may be the key to overcoming this kind of breast cancer.
The leader of the study, Professor Michael Lisanti from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit at the University of Manchester, said that the “food” cancer cells eat are critical to their success in destroying the host’s body. It also determines the kind of treatment the patient needs to hold off the cancer. The higher-energy food that cancer cells are eating, the more aggressive the cancer is and the harder is it to treat, Lisanti said. However, the 10p drug breast cancer treatment may be successful because it cuts off the fuel supply to the cancer cells.
Last year, the 10p drug metformin was being tested to see if it could stop the growth of lung cancer cells. In the most recent study, researchers from Manchester and Thomas Jefferson University studied 219 women with breast cancer. They determined who had tumors that fed off of high-energy foods called ketones and lactate. These substances are found in healthy cells, making them vulnerable to the “hungry” cancerous cells.
The group of breast cancer patients with the most aggressive cancer was determined to be the most likely group to see benefits from the diabetes drug to treat cancer. Therefore, the study led to the 10p drug becoming a breast cancer treatment because the standard dose for Type 2 diabetes costs as little as 10p per day. Professor Anthony Howell, who is the director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit in Manchester, expressed his excitement that the best aggressive breast cancer treatment “might already be in the doctor’s drug cabinet, and is cheap to prescribe.”
While the study has a long way to go until it can be verified as the best treatment option possible, it is likely that metformin will be the diabetes drug to treat breast cancer and save the lives of patients over the coming years as studies are refined. Finding out the exact potential for this diabetes drug to treat cancer may take years of study and research, but in the meantime, it could be an important new way to tailor treatments to the needs of patients in a wide range of cancer types.