Antitumor effect of metformin in esophageal cancer: in vitro study

Int J Oncol. 2013 Feb;42(2):517-24. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2012.1722. Epub 2012 Nov 29.


Recent studies suggest that metformin, which is a member of the biguanide family and commonly used as an oral anti-hyperglycemic agent, may reduce cancer risk and improve prognosis of numerous types of cancer. However, the mechanisms underlying the antitumor effect of metformin on esophageal cancer remain unknown. The goal of the present study was to evaluate the effects of metformin on the proliferation of human ESCC in vitro, and to study changes in the expression profile of microRNAs (miRNAs), since miRNAs have previously been associated with the antitumor effects of metformin in other human cancers. The human ESCC cell lines T.T, KYSE30 and KYSE70 were used to study the effects of metformin on human ESCC in vitro. In addition, we used miRNA array tips to explore the differences between miRNAs in KYSE30 cells with and without metformin treatment. Metformin inhibited the proliferation of T.T, KYSE30 and KYSE70 cells in vitro. Metformin blocked the cell cycle in G0/G1 in vitro. This blockade was accompanied by a strong decrease of G1 cyclins, especially cyclin D1, as well as decreases in cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk)4, Cdk6 and phosphorylated retinoblastoma protein (Rb). In addition, the expression of miRNAs was markedly altered with the treatment of metformin in vitro. Metformin inhibited the growth of three ESCC cell lines, and this inhibition may have involved reductions in cyclin D1, Cdk4 and Cdk6.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • Metformin