A Golden Opportunity for Metformin as a Cancer Drug

In a new study from the National University of Singapore, a new approach to target highly resistant triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) has been developed using a gold-metformin prodrug.

Metformin, first approved by the FDA in 1994, is a widely prescribed “over-the-counter” medication for Type 2 diabetes. Some evidence shows that people taking metformin for an extended period have a significantly reduced cancer risk. In spite of evidence of its effects and its low cost, use of metformin as an anticancer agent has serious drawbacks, with poor uptake by cells necessitating repeated high doses to have a therapeutic effect.
A team of researchers led by Prof Ang Wee Han from the Department of Chemistry, National University of Singapore and Prof Maria Babak from City University of Hong Kong came up with a way of chemically conjugating metformin, as well as its analog phenformin. They accomplish this by using a gold-based active molecular fragment to increase bioavailability and achieve synergistic action of the two key components (metformin and gold molecules). 

The electrochemical activity of the gold-based molecule,enabled the team to successfully deliver metformin into cancer cells with high selectivity. The lead drug candidate, 3met, was found to have an anti-cancer activity over 6000 times higher than regular metformin.

Prof Ang said, “TNBCs represent an especially dangerous subset of breast cancers with the poorest prognosis and limited treatment options. However, this particular aggressiveness of TNBC cells is related to their increased dependence on glucose and lipids, which provide additional energy to sustain rapid cancer growth. Since our drug candidates interfered with energy production in the cancer cells, we hypothesized that TNBCs might be particularly responsive to such treatment.”

In tests with mice, the research team injected the drug candidate into breast tumours at their nipple region and monitored the growth of the tumours. They found that in a drug-treated group, tumour growth completely halted after three weeks, indicating the unique anticancer potential of the drug candidate. 

With an patent application filed for, the research team is actively working on the development of other efficient drugs for the treatment of chemo-resistant cancers.

Source: Medical Xpress

Journal information: Maria V. Babak et al. Interfering with Metabolic Profile of Triple‐Negative Breast Cancer using Rationally‐Designed Metformin Prodrugs, Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2021). DOI: 10.1002/anie.202102266

Leave a Reply