Combined use of vitamin D3 and metformin exhibits synergistic chemopreventive effects on colorectal neoplasia in rats and mice

Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2015 Feb;8(2):139-48. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0128. Epub 2014 Nov 21.


Vitamin D3 and metformin are widely used in humans for regulating mineral metabolism and as an antidiabetic drug, respectively; and both of them have been shown to have chemopreventive effects against various tumors. This study was designed to investigate the potential synergistic chemopreventive effects of vitamin D3 and metformin against the development of early colon neoplasia in two models. The first model was a 1,2-dimethylhydrazine dihydrochloride (DMH)-induced colon cancer rat model and the second, a DMH-dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis-associated colon neoplasia mouse model. Compared with either vitamin D3 or metformin alone, combined use of vitamin D3 and metformin showed more pronounced effect in reducing the numbers of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and tumor in the colon. The most prominent inhibitory effects were observed in the vitamin D3 medium dose (100 IU/kg/d) and metformin medium dose (120 mg/kg/d) combination group. Furthermore, our results showed that enhancement of metformin's chemopreventive effects by vitamin D3 was associated with downregulation of S6P expression, via the AMPK (IGFI)/mTOR pathway. In addition, enhancement of vitamin D3's chemopreventive effects by metformin was associated with inhibition of the protein expressions of c-Myc and Cyclin D1, via the vitamin D receptor/β-catenin pathway. These findings show that the combined use of vitamin D3 and metformin exhibits synergistic effects against the development of early colon neoplasia. They suggest that the combined use of vitamin D3 and metformin may represent a novel strategy for chemoprevention of colorectal cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aberrant Crypt Foci / prevention & control
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cholecalciferol / pharmacology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Synergism
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Male
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Metformin