Repurposed Old Drug for New Cancer Treatment

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Phenformin, discontinued in the 1970s as a diabetes treatment, is now being investigated as an adjunct to cancer immunotherapies
Phenformin, discontinued in the 1970s as a diabetes treatment, is now being investigated as an adjunct to cancer immunotherapies

A new review article published in the journal Trends in Cancer is presenting a promising case for phenformin, an old diabetes drug related to metformin, being repurposed as an adjunct to new immunotherapy cancer treatments. A phase 1 clinical trial is already underway to test the safety of the combination treatment for skin cancer.

Metformin, a common drug prescribed to manage diabetes, is currently the subject of a number of compelling investigations into potential alternate uses, from slowing age-related cognitive decline to possibly even extending a person’s lifespan.

Retrospective epidemiological studies have also suggested metformin could possess anti-tumor properties. Preclinical and animal studies have been promising but so far early clinical work has delivered mixed results when repurposing the drug, either alone for cancer treatment, or in combination with other therapies.

Metformin is part of a class of oral antihyperglycemic drugs called biguanides. Phenformin is another biguanide, more potent than metformin and discontinued as a diabetes treatment back in the mid-1970s due to reports of lactic acidosis.

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