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Metformin and cancer: Quo vadis et cui bono?

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      Abstract

      How many lives have already been saved by the anti-cancer drug metformin? Inadvertently perhaps, among the millions of type 2 diabetics with occult or known cancers and who have been prescribed metformin since the 1950s, thousands may have benefited from the anticancer properties of this first-line pharmacotherapy. Quo vadis? Now, researchers aim to move metformin from a non-targeted stage of cancer therapy that has been mostly developed retrospectively and empirically into a targeted therapy by following a biological rationale and a predefined mechanism of action. But, who might benefit from metformin? Cui bono? Because metformin is on the leading edge of a new generation of cancer metabolism-targeted therapies, perhaps it is the right time to provide solutions to the challenges that metformin and other onco-biguanides will face in the coming years before becoming incorporated into the therapeutic armamentarium against cancer.

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      Most cited references 29

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      Long-term effects of continuing adjuvant tamoxifen to 10 years versus stopping at 5 years after diagnosis of oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer: ATLAS, a randomised trial

      Summary Background For women with oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive early breast cancer, treatment with tamoxifen for 5 years substantially reduces the breast cancer mortality rate throughout the first 15 years after diagnosis. We aimed to assess the further effects of continuing tamoxifen to 10 years instead of stopping at 5 years. Methods In the worldwide Adjuvant Tamoxifen: Longer Against Shorter (ATLAS) trial, 12 894 women with early breast cancer who had completed 5 years of treatment with tamoxifen were randomly allocated to continue tamoxifen to 10 years or stop at 5 years (open control). Allocation (1:1) was by central computer, using minimisation. After entry (between 1996 and 2005), yearly follow-up forms recorded any recurrence, second cancer, hospital admission, or death. We report effects on breast cancer outcomes among the 6846 women with ER-positive disease, and side-effects among all women (with positive, negative, or unknown ER status). Long-term follow-up still continues. This study is registered, number ISRCTN19652633. Findings Among women with ER-positive disease, allocation to continue tamoxifen reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence (617 recurrences in 3428 women allocated to continue vs 711 in 3418 controls, p=0·002), reduced breast cancer mortality (331 deaths vs 397 deaths, p=0·01), and reduced overall mortality (639 deaths vs 722 deaths, p=0·01). The reductions in adverse breast cancer outcomes appeared to be less extreme before than after year 10 (recurrence rate ratio [RR] 0·90 [95% CI 0·79–1·02] during years 5–9 and 0·75 [0·62–0·90] in later years; breast cancer mortality RR 0·97 [0·79–1·18] during years 5–9 and 0·71 [0·58–0·88] in later years). The cumulative risk of recurrence during years 5–14 was 21·4% for women allocated to continue versus 25·1% for controls; breast cancer mortality during years 5–14 was 12·2% for women allocated to continue versus 15·0% for controls (absolute mortality reduction 2·8%). Treatment allocation seemed to have no effect on breast cancer outcome among 1248 women with ER-negative disease, and an intermediate effect among 4800 women with unknown ER status. Among all 12 894 women, mortality without recurrence from causes other than breast cancer was little affected (691 deaths without recurrence in 6454 women allocated to continue versus 679 deaths in 6440 controls; RR 0·99 [0·89–1·10]; p=0·84). For the incidence (hospitalisation or death) rates of specific diseases, RRs were as follows: pulmonary embolus 1·87 (95% CI 1·13–3·07, p=0·01 [including 0·2% mortality in both treatment groups]), stroke 1·06 (0·83–1·36), ischaemic heart disease 0·76 (0·60–0·95, p=0·02), and endometrial cancer 1·74 (1·30–2·34, p=0·0002). The cumulative risk of endometrial cancer during years 5–14 was 3·1% (mortality 0·4%) for women allocated to continue versus 1·6% (mortality 0·2%) for controls (absolute mortality increase 0·2%). Interpretation For women with ER-positive disease, continuing tamoxifen to 10 years rather than stopping at 5 years produces a further reduction in recurrence and mortality, particularly after year 10. These results, taken together with results from previous trials of 5 years of tamoxifen treatment versus none, suggest that 10 years of tamoxifen treatment can approximately halve breast cancer mortality during the second decade after diagnosis. Funding Cancer Research UK, UK Medical Research Council, AstraZeneca UK, US Army, EU-Biomed.
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        Fasting insulin and outcome in early-stage breast cancer: results of a prospective cohort study.

        Insulin, a member of a family of growth factors that includes insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGF-II, exerts mitogenic effects on normal and malignant breast epithelial cells, acting via insulin and IGF-I receptors. Because of this and because of its recognized association with obesity, an adverse prognostic factor in breast cancer, we examined the prognostic associations of insulin in early-stage breast cancer. A cohort of 512 women without known diabetes, who had early-stage (T1 to T3, N0 to N1, and M0) breast cancer, was assembled and observed prospectively. Information on traditional prognostic factors and body size was collected, and fasting blood was obtained. Fasting insulin was associated with distant recurrence and death; the hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for those in the highest (> 51.9 pmol/L) versus the lowest (< 27.0 pmol/L) insulin quartile were 2.0 (95% CI, 1.2 to 3.3) and 3.1 (95% CI, 1.7 to 5.7), respectively. There was some evidence to suggest that the association of insulin with breast cancer outcomes may be nonlinear. Insulin was correlated with body mass index (Spearman r = 0.59, P <.001), which, in turn, was associated with distant recurrence and death (P <.001). In multivariate analyses that included fasting insulin and available tumor- and treatment-related variables, adjusted hazard ratios for the upper versus lower insulin quartile were 2.1 (95% CI, 1.2 to 3.6) and 3.3 (95% CI, 1.5 to 7.0) for distant recurrence and death, respectively. Fasting insulin level is associated with outcome in women with early breast cancer. High levels of fasting insulin identify women with poor outcomes in whom more effective treatment strategies should be explored.
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          Environment Impacts the Metabolic Dependencies of Ras-Driven Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.

          Cultured cells convert glucose to lactate, and glutamine is the major source of tricarboxylic acid (TCA)-cycle carbon, but whether the same metabolic phenotype is found in tumors is less studied. We infused mice with lung cancers with isotope-labeled glucose or glutamine and compared the fate of these nutrients in tumor and normal tissue. As expected, lung tumors exhibit increased lactate production from glucose. However, glutamine utilization by both lung tumors and normal lung was minimal, with lung tumors showing increased glucose contribution to the TCA cycle relative to normal lung tissue. Deletion of enzymes involved in glucose oxidation demonstrates that glucose carbon contribution to the TCA cycle is required for tumor formation. These data suggest that understanding nutrient utilization by tumors can predict metabolic dependencies of cancers in vivo. Furthermore, these data argue that the in vivo environment is an important determinant of the metabolic phenotype of cancer cells.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1 Metabolism and Cancer Group, ProCURE (Program Against Cancer Therapeutic Resistance), Catalan Institute of Oncology, Girona, Catalonia, Spain
            2 Molecular Oncology Group, Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI), Girona, Catalonia, Spain
            3 Unit of Clinical Research, Catalan Institute of Oncology, Girona, Catalonia, Spain
            4 Unitat de Recerca Biomèdica, Hospital Universitari de Sant Joan, IISPV, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Campus of International Excellence Southern Catalonia, Reus, Spain
            Author notes
            Correspondence to: Javier A. Menendez, jmenendez@ 123456idibgi.org
            [*]

            On behalf of the METTEN-01 Investigators (EudraClinicalTrial Number 2011-000490-30)

            Journal
            Oncotarget
            Oncotarget
            Oncotarget
            ImpactJ
            Oncotarget
            Impact Journals LLC
            1949-2553
            23 August 2016
            23 June 2016
            : 7
            : 34
            : 54096-54101
            27356748 5342329 10262 10.18632/oncotarget.10262
            Copyright: © 2016 Menendez et al.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Categories
            Research Perspective

            Oncology & Radiotherapy

            pharmacokinetics, metformin, cancer, metabolism

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