Research suggests that metformin, a drug commonly used to treat people with type 2 diabetes, lowering their blood glucose levels, could be used to impair the progression of pancreatic cancer.
The team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital investigated how metformin could treat the most common form of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).
Previous studies indicated that people with type 2 diabetes who took metformin had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer, as well as a reduced risk of death for those who had a tumour.
Metformin was found to decrease the fibrosis characteristics and inflammation of PDAC, in animal and cellular models. Levels of hyaluronan were found to be 30 per cent lower in the tumour samples of people with type 2 diabetes who were obese or overweight, and had PDAC, compared to the levels of hyaluronan found in those not taking the metformin drug.
Hyaluronan is a compound providing strength in the extracellular matrix.
"Understanding the mechanism behind metformin's effects on pancreatic and other cancers may help us identify biomarkers - such as patient body weight and increased tumour fibrosis - that can identify the patients for whom metformin treatment would be the most beneficial," said Rakesh K. Jain, senior co-author of the study.
The findings were published in Plos One, the online journal.