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Oncotarget. 2016 Apr 5;7(14):18965-77. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.7879.

Metformin combined with sodium dichloroacetate promotes B leukemic cell death by suppressing anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1.

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Department of Morphology, Surgery, Experimental Medicine and LTTA Centre, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy.
Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
Department of Medical Sciences, University of Ferrara-Arcispedale S. Anna, Ferrara, Italy.


Metformin and the mitochondrial targeting dichloroacetate (DCA) have recently received attention due to their ability to inhibit anaerobic glycolysis, which renders most cancer cells resistant to apoptosis induction. We observed that Metformin alone exhibited a dose-dependent anti-leukemic activity in both B leukemic cell lines and primary B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) patients' cells and its anti-leukemic activity was enhanced when used in combination with DCA. In order to overcome the problems of poor bioavailability and cellular uptake, which limit DCA efficacy, we have designed and synthetized cocrystals consisting of Metformin and DCA (Met-DCA) at different stoichiometric ratios. Of note, the MetH(2)(++)•2DCA(-) cocrystal exhibited enhanced in vitro anti-leukemic activity, with respect to the treatment with the mix consisting of Metformin plus DCA. In particular, the treatment with the cocrystal MetH(2)(++)•2DCA(-) induced a synergistic apoptotic cell death coupled to a marked down-modulation of the anti-apoptotic Mcl-1 protein. Taken together, our data emphasize that innovative compounds based on Metformin-DCA combination merit to be further evaluated as chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of B-CLL.


B chronic leukemic cells; Mcl-1; apoptosis; metformin; sodium dichloroacetate

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