Diabetic Drug Metformin Shows Evidence of Cancer Prevention, Therapy, and Anti-Aging
Source: J Cancer Management Research (2019)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (September 7, 2022)
It may interest you to know that natural products, such as plants and herbs, and their derivatives are the source of about 50% of all pharmaceutical drugs used in modern medicine today. (1) One of those drugs is the popular, highly effective, and inexpensive drug known as Metformin, which is used to treat type 2 diabetes. Metformin was originally discovered and extracted from the herb known as the Galega officinalis or goat’s rue (French lilac, Italian fitch). Dating back to 1918 goat’s rue extract (containing Metformin) was used to treat type 2 diabetes.
The synthetic derivative used today is highly effective in not only reducing high blood sugar (glucose) but also lowers other cardiovascular risk factors (such as lowering HbA1c and insulin levels). Based on animal studies metformin has also shown beneficial therapeutic effects on metabolic syndrome, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), and hyperlipidemia (high triglyceride levels). The drug is inexpensive and has minimal side effects, and there is evidence of increased survival among patients taking this medication.
In recent years Metformin has also shown evidence as an anti-cancer agent. In fact, it is proven to block key pathways that lead to cancer development (i.e., mTOR pathway) and has been shown to kill cancer stem cells and decrease the synthesis of important cell receptors linked to increased cancer risk (i.e., Her-2 receptor, IGF-1 receptor). It also helps block the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumor cells with oxygen and nutrients. This effect is known as anti-angiogenesis and is a key aspect of preventing cancers from metastasizing. As reported in the 2019 review paper, “based on recent analyses and studies, Metformin reduces proliferation of cancer cells and possibly malignancies in different types of cancer, including stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, uterine cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, as well as prostate, colon, and breast cancer.” Studies show that since 2005, Metformin has been reported to reduce the risk of cancer by up to 23% worldwide. For example, the results of the Taiwan National Health Insurance Data Survey, which included 12,005 patients taking metformin from 2000 to 2007 and a population of 4,597 patients taking other oral medications for diabetes, indicated that using metformin reduced the chance of developing any type of cancer up to 88%. And, according to the results of Decensi et al (2010), the likelihood of developing cancer in type 2 diabetic patients using metformin is 30% lower than that of patients taking other drugs. Other studies have shown similar findings. Moreover, Metformin has also been used to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for many types of cancer, including, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, rectal and colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoblastic leukemia, non-small lung cancer, and a few other cancers. Details of these results can be found in the 2019 review paper as well. In their concluding comments the researchers state that in addition to being an excellent drug to reduce blood sugar (glucose), insulin and HbA1c, Metformin can be considered an ideal candidate for cancer prevention and improvement in the treatment of cancers. (2) And as reported in the August 2021 review in the journal Frontiers of Endocrinology, they stated, “Based on a systematic review of 53 studies, Campbell et al. concluded that independent of its therapeutic efficacy as an anti-diabetic drug, the use of Metformin results in a reduction of all-cause mortality associated with diseases that accelerate aging, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.” (3)
Given the fact that most people in our society see a rise in their blood sugar (glucose) level as they age, as well as developing other risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, plus the fact that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world, some doctors as well as other health and anti-aging experts suggest that beginning around age 45 to 50 years of age, individuals might consider taking 500 mg of Metformin daily, as a preventative and anti-aging agent. More research is required to test the true anti-cancer potential of Metformin in non-diabetic individuals, but many doctors and health experts have begun using it themselves and recommending it to patients as a preventive and anti-aging intervention.
In my view, it should be kept in mind that the natural agents such as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), an important compound found in green tea extract, as well as curcumin, soy isoflavone, and indole-3 carbinol-containing supplements, as an example, have also shown similar anti-cancer properties as Metformin, and EGCG can also help reduce high blood sugar (glucose). These are also important preventive agents, in my view, that deserve to be in any conversation about prevention and longevity.
I have included the Metformin research references in the text below.
1. Pan S, et al. New perspectives on how to discover drugs from herbal medicines: CAM’s outstanding contribution to modern therapeutics. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619623/#B20
2. MAIN REFERENCE: Saraei P et al. The beneficial effects of metformin on cancer prevention and therapy: A comprehensive review of recent advances. Cancer Manag Res. 2019; 11: 3295-3313. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6497052/#:~:text=Based%20on%20recent%20analyses%20and,prostate%2C%20colon%2C%20pancreas%2C%20and
3. Mohammed I et al. A critical review of the evidence that metformin is a putative anti-aging drug that enhances healthspan and extends lifespan. Front. Endocrinol,. August 2021https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.718942/full%20
4. SUPPORTING REFERENCE (METFORMIN AND CANCER) Lei Y et al. Metformin targets multiple signaling pathways in cancer. BMC Cancer Communication. January 2017. https://cancercommun.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40880-017-0184-9
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.