Send to

Choose Destination
Oncol Lett. 2018 Jan;15(1):683-690. doi: 10.3892/ol.2017.7412. Epub 2017 Nov 14.

Metformin and cancer: An existing drug for cancer prevention and therapy.

Author information

Department of Hematology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, Jiangxi 330008, P.R. China.
Department of Oncology, Rizhao Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital of Shandong Traditional Chinese Medicine University, Rizhao, Shandong 276800, P.R. China.
Bone Marrow Transplantation Center, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310003, P.R. China.


Metformin is a standard clinical drug used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and polycystic ovary syndrome. Recently, epidemiological studies and meta-analyses have revealed that patients with T2DM have a lower incidence of tumor development than healthy controls and that patients diagnosed with cancer have a lower risk of mortality when treated with metformin, demonstrating an association between metformin and tumorigenesis. In vivo and in vitro studies have revealed that metformin has a direct antitumor effect, which may depress tumor proliferation and induce the apoptosis, autophagy and cell cycle arrest of tumor cells. The mechanism underpinning the antitumor effect of metformin has not been well established. Studies have demonstrated that reducing insulin and insulin-like growth factor levels in the peripheral blood circulation may lead to the inhibition of phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling or activation of AMP-activated protein kinase, which inhibits mTOR signaling, a process that may be associated with the antitumor effect of metformin. The present review primarily focuses on the recent progress in understanding the function of metformin in tumor development.


cancer; diabetes; mechanisms; metformin

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center