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J Oncol. 2012;2012:928127. doi: 10.1155/2012/928127. Epub 2012 Jun 4.

Metformin: an emerging new therapeutic option for targeting cancer stem cells and metastasis.

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Division of Gynecology Oncology, Department of Women's Health Services, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Metastasis is an intricate process by which a small number of cancer cells from the primary tumor site undergo numerous alterations, which enables them to form secondary tumors at another and often multiple sites in the host. Transition of a cancer cell from epithelial to mesenchymal phenotype is thought to be the first step in the progression of metastasis. Recently, the recognition of cancer stem cells has added to the perplexity in understanding metastasis, as studies suggest cancer stem cells to be the originators of metastasis. All current and investigative drugs have been unable to prevent or reverse metastasis, as a result of which most metastatic cancers are incurable. A potential drug that can be considered is metformin, an oral hypoglycemic drug. In this review we discuss the potential of metformin in targeting both epithelial to mesenchymal transition and cancer stem cells in combating cancer metastases.

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