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      Long-Term Metformin Use Is Associated With Decreased Risk of Breast Cancer

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          Abstract

          OBJECTIVE

          To evaluate whether use of oral hypoglycemic agents is associated with an altered breast cancer risk in women.

          RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

          Using the U.K.-based General Practice Research Database, we conducted a nested case-control analysis among 22,621 female users of oral antidiabetes drugs with type 2 diabetes. We evaluated whether they had an altered risk of breast cancer in relation to use of various types of oral hypoglycemic agents. Case and control patients with a recorded diagnosis of type 2 diabetes were matched on age, calendar time, and general practice, and the multivariate conditional logistic regression analyses were further adjusted for use of oral antidiabetes drugs, insulin, estrogens, smoking BMI, diabetes duration, and HbA1c (A1C).

          RESULTS

          We identified 305 case patients with a recorded incident diagnosis of breast cancer. The mean ± SD age was 67.5 ± 10.5 years at the time of the cancer diagnosis. Long-term use of ≥40 prescriptions (>5 years) of metformin, based on 17 exposed case patients and 120 exposed control patients, was associated with an adjusted odds ratio of 0.44 (95% CI 0.24–0.82) for developing breast cancer compared with no use of metformin. Neither short-term metformin use nor use of sulfonylureas or other antidiabetes drugs was associated with a materially altered risk for breast cancer.

          CONCLUSIONS

          A decreased risk of breast cancer was observed in female patients with type 2 diabetes using metformin on a long-term basis.

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          Most cited references 20

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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.
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            Metformin inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin-dependent translation initiation in breast cancer cells.

            Metformin is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes because of its ability to lower blood glucose. The effects of metformin are explained by the activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which regulates cellular energy metabolism. Recently, we showed that metformin inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells through the activation of AMPK. Here, we show that metformin inhibits translation initiation. In MCF-7 breast cancer cells, metformin treatment led to a 30% decrease in global protein synthesis. Metformin caused a dose-dependent specific decrease in cap-dependent translation, with a maximal inhibition of 40%. Polysome profile analysis showed an inhibition of translation initiation as metformin treatment of MCF-7 cells led to a shift of mRNAs from heavy to light polysomes and a concomitant increase in the amount of 80S ribosomes. The decrease in translation caused by metformin was associated with mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibition, and a decrease in the phosphorylation of S6 kinase, ribosomal protein S6, and eIF4E-binding protein 1. The effects of metformin on translation were mediated by AMPK, as treatment of cells with the AMPK inhibitor compound C prevented the inhibition of translation. Furthermore, translation in MDA-MB-231 cells, which lack the AMPK kinase LKB1, and in tuberous sclerosis complex 2 null (TSC2(-/-)) mouse embryonic fibroblasts was unaffected by metformin, indicating that LKB1 and TSC2 are involved in the mechanism of action of metformin. These results show that metformin-mediated AMPK activation leads to inhibition of mTOR and a reduction in translation initiation, thus providing a possible mechanism of action of metformin in the inhibition of cancer cell growth.
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              Increased cancer-related mortality for patients with type 2 diabetes who use sulfonylureas or insulin.

              Numerous studies have identified an increased risk of cancer in type 2 diabetes. We explored the association between antidiabetic therapies and cancer-related mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes, postulating that agents that increase insulin levels might promote cancer. This was a population-based cohort study using administrative databases from Saskatchewan Health. Cancer-related mortality was compared among inception cohorts of metformin users and sulfonylurea monotherapy users. Multivariate Cox regression was used to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) of cancer-related mortality, after adjusting for age, sex, insulin use, and chronic disease score. All statistical tests were two-sided. We identified 10,309 new users of metformin or sulfonylureas with an average follow-up of 5.4 +/- 1.9 years (means +/- SD). The mean age for the cohort was 63.4 +/- 13.3 years, and 55% were men. Cancer mortality over follow-up was 4.9% (162 of 3,340) for sulfonylurea monotherapy users, 3.5% (245 of 6,969) for metformin users, and 5.8% (84 of 1,443) for subjects who used insulin. After multivariate adjustment, the sulfonylurea cohort had greater cancer-related mortality compared with the metformin cohort (adjusted HR 1.3 [95% CI 1.1-1.6]; P = 0.012). Insulin use was associated with an adjusted HR of cancer-related mortality of 1.9 (95% CI 1.5-2.4; P < 0.0001). Patients with type 2 diabetes exposed to sulfonylureas and exogenous insulin had a significantly increased risk of cancer-related mortality compared with patients exposed to metformin. It is uncertain whether this increased risk is related to a deleterious effect of sulfonylurea and insulin or a protective effect of metformin or due to some unmeasured effect related to both choice of therapy and cancer risk.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Diabetes Care
                diacare
                dcare
                Diabetes Care
                Diabetes Care
                American Diabetes Association
                0149-5992
                1935-5548
                June 2010
                18 March 2010
                : 33
                : 6
                : 1304-1308
                Affiliations
                1Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland;
                2Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver Health, Denver, Colorado;
                3Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland;
                4Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program, Boston University School of Medicine, Lexington, Massachusetts, and Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts;
                5Basel Pharmacoepidemiology Unit, Division of Clinical Pharmacy and Epidemiology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Basel, and Hospital Pharmacy, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland.
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Christoph R. Meier, meierch@ 123456uhbs.ch .
                Article
                1791
                10.2337/dc09-1791
                2875444
                20299480
                © 2010 by the American Diabetes Association.

                Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for details.

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                Categories
                Original Research
                Pathophysiology/Complications

                Endocrinology & Diabetes

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