, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 5101-5110
Date: 07 Feb 2014

Repositioning metformin in cancer: genetics, drug targets, and new ways of delivery

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Abstract

After sitting many years on the shelves of drug stores as a harmless antidiabetic drug, metformin comes back in the spotlight of the scientific community as a surprisingly effective antineoplastic drug. Metformin targets multiple pathways that play pivotal roles in cancer progression, impacting various cellular processes, such as proliferation, cell death, metabolism, and even the cancer stemness features. The biomolecular characteristics of tumors, such as appropriate expression of organic cation transporters or genetic alterations including p53, K-ras, LKB1, and PI3K may impact metformin’s anticancer efficiency. This could indicate a need for tumor genetic profiling in order to identify patients most likely to benefit from metformin treatment. Considering that the majority of experimental models suggest that higher, supra-clinical doses of metformin should be used in order to obtain an antineoplastic effect, new ways of drug delivery could be developed, such as metformin-loaded nanoparticles or incorporation of metformin into microparticles used in transarterial chemoembolization, with the aim of obtaining higher intratumoral drug concentrations and a targeted therapy which will ultimately maximize metformin’s efficacy.

Authors Mihaela Aldea and Lucian Craciun contributed equally to this review.