A pilot 'window of opportunity' neoadjuvant study of metformin in localised prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Sep;17(3):252-8. doi: 10.1038/pcan.2014.20. Epub 2014 May 27.


Background: Metformin is an inhibitor of complex 1 in the respiratory chain, and is widely used to reduce insulin resistance. It has also been described to have pleotropic effects including via AMPK on inhibiting the mTOR kinase. Pre-clinical and epidemiological studies suggest an ability to modulate disease evolution in prostate cancer. In this study, we aimed to (i) demonstrate safety and tolerability of neoadjuvant metformin administration and (ii) document changes in proliferative (Ki67) and AMPK-related signalling indices between matching biopsies and prostatectomies

Methods: Men were treated in a single-arm 'window of opportunity' study between their decision to undergo radical prostatectomy and the operation itself. Forty patients were planned but only 24 patients were enrolled owing to slow accrual. Twenty-one patients were evaluable for pathological outcomes and 22 for serum metabolic indices. Metformin was given at doses to 500 mg t.i.d. Ki67 index was calculated using the Aperio-positive pixel count algorithm, whereas immunohistochemical measurements were by consensus H-Score. Comparative statistics were analysed by students t-tests and/or Wilcoxon matched pairs signed rank test.

Results: Baseline characteristics included median PSA 6 ng ml(-1) (3.22-36.11 ng ml(-1)). Median duration of drug treatment was 41 days (18-81). Treatment was well tolerated with only three patients developing G3/4 toxicities. In a per patient and per tumour analyses, metformin reduced the Ki67 index by relative amounts of 29.5 and 28.6 % (P=0.0064 and P=0.0042) respectively. There was also a significant decrease in P-4EBP1 staining (P<0.001) but no change in P-AMPK or P-ACC. There were no correlations between any metabolic, morphometric or cancer-related serum indices. There was a trend towards PSA reduction (P=0.08). The study is limited by small patient numbers and tumour heterogeneity.

Conclusions: Neoadjuvant metformin is well tolerated prior to radical prostatectomy. Data to date indicate promising effects on metabolic and tissue proliferation and signalling parameters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Biopsy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metformin / administration & dosage
  • Metformin / adverse effects
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / surgery


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Metformin