Purpose: Metformin is associated with reduced breast cancer risk in observational studies in patients with diabetes, but clinical evidence for antitumor activity is unclear. The change in Ki-67 between pretreatment biopsy and post-treatment surgical specimen has prognostic value and may predict antitumor activity in breast cancer.
Patients and methods: After tumor biopsy, we randomly allocated 200 nondiabetic women with operable breast cancer to either metformin 850 mg/twice per day (n = 100) or placebo (n = 100). The primary outcome measure was the difference between arms in Ki-67 after 4 weeks adjusted for baseline values.
Results: Overall, the metformin effect on Ki-67 change relative to placebo was not statistically significant, with a mean proportional increase of 4.0% (95% CI, -5.6% to 14.4%) 4 weeks apart. However, there was a different drug effect depending on insulin resistance (homeostasis model assessment [HOMA] index > 2.8, fasting glucose [mmol/L] × insulin [mU/L]/22.5; P(interaction) = .045), with a nonsignificant mean proportional decrease in Ki-67 of 10.5% (95% CI, -26.1% to 8.4%) in women with HOMA more than 2.8 and a nonsignificant increase of 11.1% (95% CI, -0.6% to 24.2%) with HOMA less than or equal to 2.8. A different effect of metformin according to HOMA index was noted also in luminal B tumors (P(interaction) = .05). Similar trends to drug effect modifications were observed according to body mass index (P = .143), waist/hip girth-ratio (P = .058), moderate alcohol consumption (P = .005), and C-reactive protein (P = .080).
Conclusion: Metformin before surgery did not significantly affect Ki-67 overall, but showed significantly different effects according to insulin resistance, particularly in luminal B tumors. Our findings warrant further studies of metformin in breast cancer with careful consideration to the metabolic characteristics of the study population.