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Abandoned diabetes drug shows lymphoma promise

Thursday April 18th, 2019

A drug abandoned as a treatment for diabetes may protect against the development of T-cell lymphoma, Scottish researchers have reported.

The Dundee University research at first centred on metformin – but then switched to phenformin.

The drug was abandoned in many countries 30 years ago after patients developed fatal lactic acidosis.

The latest research, published in Cell Reports, involved a laboratory mouse model and centred on a protein AMPK, which was thought to confer protection against the disease.

The laboratory studies showed that AMPK played a key role in protecting against lymphoma development. Metformin activates AMPK but the researchers found the drug could not penetrate diseases cells. Phenformin was able to do this.

Other studies have linked metformin to protection against the cancer.

Researcher Professor Grahame Hardie said: “We now think that the apparent protective effect of metformin in humans was due to activation of AMPK not in the cancer cells themselves, but elsewhere in the body, which protects against cancer indirectly by lowering insulin levels.

"On the other hand, the protective effect of phenformin is due to activation of AMPK within the cells that give rise to the cancer, a mechanism that is likely to be applicable to other forms of cancer.”

He added: “If our findings can be applied to humans, individuals at high risk of developing cancer might be treated with phenformin.

"The small risk of lactic acidosis caused phenformin to be dropped for use in diabetes - but may be more acceptable if it was used as an anti-cancer agent.”

Cell Reports 16 April 2019

https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(19)30397-3

Tags: Cancer | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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