Anti-cancer Effects of Metformin: Recent Evidences for its Role in Prevention and Treatment of Cancer

Curr Drug Metab. 2018;19(9):793-797. doi: 10.2174/1389200219666180416161846.


Background: Metformin is widely used for management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). Recently growing evidences have shown its anti-cancer effects. The results are mainly from observational studies and thus few information is available concerning the mechanisms of action.

Method: This paper reviews recent available evidences for anti-cancer effects of metformin. The effects of metformin in specific cancers including colorectal, prostate, pancreatic, renal, cervical, endometrial, gastric, lung, breast, and ovarian cancer are reviewed.

Results: Adenosine Monophosphate (AMP)-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) plays an important role in mechanism of action of metformin. The anti-cancer mechanisms of metformin include direct and indirect effects. The direct effects of metformin include AMPK-independent and AMPK-dependent effects whereas decrease in glucose level, hyperinsulinemia, and Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) level are considered its indirect effects. Metformin also decreases both pro-inflammatory cytokines and Nuclear Factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF- κB) and improves the immune response to cancer cells.

Conclusion: Although the results of recent trials confirm the efficacy of metformin in prevention and treatment of different cancers, the evidences are not adequate enough.

Keywords: Metformin; adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK); insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1); kappalight- chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB); reactive oxygen species; type 2 diabetes mellitus..

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Metformin