Metformin: The answer to cancer in a flower? current knowledge and future prospects of metformin as an anti-cancer agent in breast cancer

Samson Mathews Samuel, Elizabeth Varghese, Peter Kubatka, Chris R. Triggle, Dietrich Büsselberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Interest has grown in studying the possible use of well-known anti-diabetic drugs as anti-cancer agents individually or in combination with, frequently used, chemotherapeutic agents and/or radiation, owing to the fact that diabetes heightens the risk, incidence, and rapid progression of cancers, including breast cancer, in an individual. In this regard, metformin (1, 1-dimethylbiguanide), well known as ‘Glucophage’ among diabetics, was reported to be cancer preventive while also being a potent anti-proliferative and anti-cancer agent. While meta-analysis studies reported a lower risk and incidence of breast cancer among diabetic individuals on a metformin treatment regimen, several in vitro, pre-clinical, and clinical studies reported the efficacy of using metformin individually as an anti-cancer/anti-tumor agent or in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation in the treatment of different forms of breast cancer. However, unanswered questions remain with regards to areas such as cancer treatment specific therapeutic dosing of metformin, specificity to cancer cells at high concentrations, resistance to metformin therapy, efficacy of combinatory therapeutic approaches, post-therapeutic relapse of the disease, and efficacy in cancer prevention in non-diabetic individuals. In the current article, we discuss the biology of metformin and its molecular mechanism of action, the existing cellular, pre-clinical, and clinical studies that have tested the anti-tumor potential of metformin as a potential anti-cancer/anti-tumor agent in breast cancer therapy, and outline the future prospects and directions for a better understanding and re-purposing of metformin as an anti-cancer drug in the treatment of breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number846
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019



  • Anti-cancer therapy
  • Cancer
  • Combination therapy
  • Metformin
  • Natural compounds
  • Resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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