When the widely-used diabetes drug, metformin, was combined with standard chemotherapy, the combo therapy wiped out pancreatic cancer stem cells in one fell swoop, and they didn't come back.
If these findings hold up in humans, we could be looking at being able to shrink pancreatic cancer tumors to help patients live longer.
"Ask your oncologist about combination therapies."
These are the conclusions Christopher Heeschen, MD, PhD, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference, held June 18-21, 2012.
Cancer stem cells are the most difficult to destroy. They're involved throughout the cancer process. They not only start cancer growth, but make chemotherapy treatments stop working. They are very tough customers.
Recently, researchers have learned that cancer stem cells are the key barriers to standard therapies working on pancreatic cancer.
“Therefore, efficiently targeting these cells will be crucial for achieving higher cure rates in patients with pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Heeschen, professor for experimental medicine at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid, Spain.
“Our newly emerging data now indicate that metformin, a widely used and well-tolerated drug for the treatment of diabetes, is capable of efficiently eliminating these cells.”
Apparently, cancer stem cell metabolism melted, the cells died when pre-treated with metformin, and the tumors didn't return.
“Intriguingly, in all tumors treated with metformin to date, relapse of disease was efficiently prevented and there were no noticeable adverse effects,” Dr. Heeschen said.
He thinks it's time to head to clinical trials. Dr. Heeschen and his team are waiting for the results of a study testing the diabetes drug as a maintenance treatment for people with late stage pancreatic cancer.
Metformin has been seen to have effective cancer-fighting properties against a number of different malignancies.
It should be noted that research presented at conferences is considered preliminary before it's published in a peer-reviewed journal.