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Sci Rep. 2015 Sep 22;5:14404. doi: 10.1038/srep14404.

Metformin Increases Sensitivity of Pancreatic Cancer Cells to Gemcitabine by Reducing CD133+ Cell Populations and Suppressing ERK/P70S6K Signaling.

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Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
Department of Breast and Thyroid Surgery, Central Hospital of Wuhan.
Pancreatic Disease Institute, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology.


The prognosis of pancreatic cancer remains dismal, with little advance in chemotherapy because of its high frequency of chemoresistance. Metformin is widely used to treat type II diabetes, and was shown recently to inhibit pancreatic cancer stem cell proliferation. In the present study, we investigated the role of metformin in chemoresistance of pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine, and its possible cellular and molecular mechanisms. Metformin increases sensitivity of pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine. The mechanism involves, at least in part, the inhibition of CD133(+) cells proliferation and suppression of P70S6K signaling activation via inhibition of ERK phosphorylation. Studies of primary tumor samples revealed a relationship between P70S6K signaling activation and the malignancy of pancreatic cancer. Analysis of clinical data revealed a trend of the benefit of metformin for pancreatic cancer patients with diabetes. The results suggested that metformin has a potential clinical use in overcoming chemoresistance of pancreatic cancer.

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