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Commonly Used Diabetes Drug May Help To Prevent Primary Liver Cancer

Posted Apr 01 2012 2:08pm

Metformin, a drug widely used to treat Type II diabetes, may help to prevent primary liver cancer, researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center report in the April 1, 2012, issue of Cancer Prevention Research. Primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma, is an often-deadly form of cancer that is on the rise worldwide and is the fastest-growing cause of cancer-related deaths among American men.

Patients with Type II diabetes have a two- to three-fold increased relative risk of developing primary liver cancer. Also at risk are people who are obese, have hepatitis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Metformin, which is derived from the French lilac, is used to treat NAFLD as well as diabetes, and currently is being studied in connection with the prevention of a variety of cancers. This pre-clinical study is the first to focus on liver cancer.

“Our research demonstrated that metformin prevents primary liver cancer in animal models. Mice treated with metformin had significantly smaller and fewer tumors than those who did not receive the medication,” says the study’s senior author, Geoffrey D. Girnun, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a researcher at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. “Based on these findings, we believe metformin should be evaluated as a preventive agent in people who are at high risk. Many patients with diabetes already are taking this medication, with few side effects.”

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