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Radiat Res. 2014 Jul;182(1):50-9. doi: 10.1667/RR13568.1. Epub 2014 Jun 7.

Radiosensitization of pancreatic cancer cells by metformin through the AMPK pathway.

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a  Department of Radiation Oncology and.


Pancreatic cancer is relatively radioresistant, however, radiotherapy has been shown to provide efficacy in the treatment of local disease. To increase the effectiveness of radiotherapy in pancreatic cancer, radiosensitizing drugs are under development. In this study, we investigated the radiosensitizing activity of the anti-diabetic drug metformin on pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. We demonstrated that metformin radiosensitized MiaPaCa-2 and Panc1 cells with radiation enhancement ratios (ER) ranging from 1.33-1.45 with metformin concentrations of 30-100 μM, and in addition, we showed that metformin sensitized cells to gemcitabine alone or in combination with radiation treatment. In addition, we found that pancreatic cancer stem cell-like cells showed enhanced radiosensitization in a tumorsphere assay with a REF of 1.66. At these radiosensitizing doses, metformin alone had low toxicity (as shown by >75% clonogenic survival) and did not affect cell cycle. The combination of metformin and radiation yielded greater numbers of γ-H2AX foci after 1 h compared to radiation alone, suggesting increased DNA damage signaling. Examination of the AMPK pathway showed that pharmacological inhibition of AMPK signaling or RNAi of AMPKα1 reversed metformin-mediated radiosensitization. These studies show that metformin radiosensitization of pancreatic cancer cells at micromolar concentration acts through AMPK and may affect DNA damage signaling. The data indicate that metformin may increase the efficacy of radiation therapy for pancreatic cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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