Metformin – Old Drug with New Tricks

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What prevents Cancer?

Serendipity is such a great thing! Medicines are studied and researched and submitted to the FDA for approval. Scientists give the FDA all their test results and build a case for a specific use for a drug. When the FDA approves it (if it does), then it is sold for a specific treatment for a specific illness under the license of the FDA and the producers make a lot of money to recoup their research and development costs.

Doctors have always been free to take the drug used for a specific approved use by the FDA and apply it to a patient and their medical situation as an off label use. Off label means that it is not what the drug was specifically developed for, but the doctor knows or thinks it will work well for some other use. This is what we call serendipity.

Serendipity comes in to play with the drug Metformin. Almost everyone uses this drug for the treatment of type 2 Diabetes. In its approved use, Metformin decreases the body’s resistance to insulin and approves glucose balance in diabetics. But doctors have found that it works to improve the conditions of pre-diabetics, it helps maintain youthfulness and it may prevent Alzheimer’s. We know these things commonly in doctor’s offices and use Metformin for them. What we did not know is that Metformin helps prevent Cancer!

Type 2 Diabetics are at greater risk for liver, colon and pancreatic cancers than other people are. Also, hormonal changes among type 2 Diabetics increase the risk of cancer risks from higher levels of insulin to increased inflammatory cytokines.

Metformin is an inexpensive generic drug that is readily available and researchers all over the world are looking into Metformin as a cancer specific treatment. The news is exciting but the work is scattered because the patent has run out. There is no central clearinghouse for the research. Hopefully your physician is on top of the most recent research for treating type 2 Diabetes, especially if you are at risk for it or are considered pre-diabetic. You should definitely be on Metformin and perhaps it would be a good thing for all of us who are worried about Cancer to take it as well.