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Anti-diabetic drug to 'suffocate' pancreatic cancer cells is promising

Posted by: Research 11 September 2015

Research findings into the use of an anti-diabetic drug that can be used to ‘suffocate’ pancreatic cancer stem cells have been widely reported in the media today.

The research, carried out by Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute and the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) in Madrid, found that not all cancer cells are the same when it comes to their metabolism. Unlike other cancer cells, pancreatic cancer stem cells (PancSCs) can make use of oxygen in their metabolism.

Researchers now believe that this means pancreatic cancer stem cells could be targeted with the anti-diabetic drug, Metformin, killing the cells by stopping them from being able to use oxygen. This research could also have implications for preventing pancreatic cancer returning after conventional treatment as pancreatic cancer stem cells are involved in the formation of new tumours and the ability of cancer to spread around the body.

 Commenting on these findings, Anna Jewell – Acting Director of Operations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said:

‘The recent findings by researchers from Queen Mary University of London’s Barts Cancer Institute and CNIO are positive as they could potentially lead to new avenues for treating pancreatic cancer.

This study is particularly interesting because it could further understanding of how to reduce the chance of pancreatic cancer returning after conventional treatment. At present, just 4% of patients diagnosed with the disease survive for 5 years or more and recurrence rates are high. Research in this area is urgently needed to improve these shocking statistics.

A clinical trial is now planned for later next year and we will be very interested to follow the development of  further research in this area. However, we are still a way off from knowing if this will lead to a successful treatment option for pancreatic cancer.’

You can read a summary of the research findings, here