Low concentrations of metformin selectively inhibit CD133⁺ cell proliferation in pancreatic cancer and have anticancer action

PLoS One. 2013 May 8;8(5):e63969. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063969. Print 2013.

Abstract

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. The prognosis remains dismal with little advance in treatment. Metformin is a drug widely used for the treatment of type II diabetes. Recent epidemiologic data revealed that oral administration of metformin is associated with a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer, suggesting its potential as a novel drug for this disease. Many studies have demonstrated the in vitro anticancer action of metformin, but the typically used concentrations were much higher than the in vivo plasma and tissue concentrations achieved with recommended therapeutic doses of metformin, and low concentrations of metformin had little effect on the proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells. We examined the effect of low concentrations of metformin on different subpopulations of pancreatic cancer cells and found that these selectively inhibited the proliferation of CD133⁺ but not CD24⁺CD44⁺ESA⁺ cells. We also examined the effect of low concentrations of metformin on cell invasion and in vivo tumor formation, demonstrating in vitro and in vivo anticancer action. Metformin was associated with a reduction of phospho-Erk and phospho-mTOR independent of Akt and AMPK phosphorylation. CD133⁺ pancreatic cancer cells are considered to be cancer stem cells that contribute to recurrence, metastasis and resistance to adjuvant therapies in pancreatic cancer. Our results provide a basis for combination of metformin with current therapies to improve the prognosis of this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metformin / administration & dosage*
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Peptides / metabolism

Substances

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • Glycoproteins
  • PROM1 protein, human
  • Peptides
  • Metformin

Grant support

This work was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81001064) (Website: http://www.nsfc.gov.cn). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.