Metformin and cancer therapy

Curr Opin Oncol. 2012 Jan;24(1):103-8. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e32834d8155.


Purpose of review: To focus on the potential role of metformin, a widely used antidiabetic drug, in cancer treatment.

Recent findings: Epidemiological, preclinical and cellular studies have shown in the last 6 years that metformin exerts antitumoral properties. Here, we review the very last findings concerning metformin action in cancer. The results of the first clinical trials as well as the combined action of metformin and chemotherapeutics agents in vitro and in vivo will be discussed. Recent studies show that metformin could also regulate inflammation and, therefore, may play a role in tumor microenvironment. Finally, we will present the latest publications concerning the molecular mechanisms implicated in metformin action, especially the AMP-activated kinase-independent pathways.

Summary: The numerous in-vitro and in-vivo studies warrant the ongoing clinical trials, which should definitively help us to determine if metformin could be used in cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line, Tumor / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases