Metformin, an oral biguanide widely used to treat diabetes, has considerable potential and is in clinical trials as an experimental preventive or therapeutic agent for a range of cancers. Direct actions targeting cellular pathways, particularly via AMP-activated protein kinase and through inhibiting mitochondrial ATP synthesis, or systemic mechanisms involving insulin and insulin-like growth factors have been much studied in vitro and in preclinical models. Epidemiologic and retrospective studies also provide clinical evidence in support of metformin as an antitumor agent. Preoperative window-of-opportunity trials confirm the safety of metformin in women with primary breast cancer, and demonstrate reduction in tumor cell proliferation and complex pathways of gene suppression or overexpression attributable to metformin. Confirmation of insulin-mediated effects, independent of body mass index, also supports the potential benefit of adjuvant metformin therapy. Neoadjuvant, adjuvant, and advanced disease trials combining metformin with established anticancer agents are under way or proposed. Companion biomarker studies will utilize in vitro and preclinical understanding of the relevant molecular pathways to, in future, refine patient and tumor selection for metformin therapy. Clin Cancer Res; 20(10); 1–8. ©2014 AACR.
- Received September 26, 2013.
- Revision received January 14, 2014.
- Accepted February 7, 2014.
- ©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.