British researchers say that metformin, the drug most often used to treat prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, could provide potential protection against endometrial cancer in women.
Endometrial cancer, a malignancy of the uterine lining, is the fourth most common cancer among women in the United States and United Kingdom. One of its preconditions is sometimes polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition in which ovarian follicles fail to develop completely, often leading to irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, and excess hairiness.
Another side effect of PCOS is insulin resistance and excessive insulin production. Over the years, as scientists used metformin to control those symptoms in women with the syndrome, they noted that its long-term use also improved ovulation and menstrual cycle regularity.
Because obesity, PCOS, and diabetes are linked to an increased risk of endometrial cancer, researchers at the Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick decided to study the effect of metformin on endometrial cancer cells. They used sera on the cells that they derived from three sources: a control group and two groups of PCOS women: one that had received no metformin treatment and one that had.
They found that the cancer cells treated with a serum from the metformin-treated group spread at a 25 percent slower rate than cells treated with non-metformin-affected sera.
The U.K. researchers said that while the results open the door to a potential metformin-based therapy for endometrial cancer, there still needs to be a comprehensive randomized trial to determine its full potential.
The research paper was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and is titled “Metformin Treatment Exerts Antiinvasive and Antimetastatic Effects in Human Endometrial Carcinoma Cells.”