Scientists from Sinai Health found that a widely used and inexpensive type 2 diabetes drug, once hoped to hold enormous promise in treating breast cancer, does not prevent or stop the spread of the most common forms of the disease.
The research is published in JAMA and was conducted by Dr. Pamela Goodwin et al.
In the study, the team examined more than 3,600 breast cancer patients from across Canada, the U.S., Switzerland and the U.K.
Patients were treated with two pills a day of either placebo or the diabetes drug metformin.
Overall, researchers found the addition of metformin to standard breast cancer treatments did not improve outcomes in the two most common types of breast cancer, hormone receptor-positive or negative.
The results showed that metformin is not effective against the most common types of breast cancer and any off-label use for this drug for the treatment of these breast cancer should be stopped.
While metformin was found not to be effective in treating the most common forms of breast cancer, the study found an important result for people with a less common but aggressive form of the disease, called HER2-positive breast cancer.
For this subtype of breast cancer, researchers found there was evidence that the use of metformin for five years might lead to a reduction in deaths. HER2-positive cancer makes up about 20 percent of all breast cancers.
They say that metformin is not beneficial for use in most common breast cancers, but in the cases of HER2-positive breast cancer, the findings suggest it may be beneficial.
These results need to be replicated in future research before metformin is used as a breast cancer treatment, however, it could provide an additional treatment option for HER2-positive breast cancer.
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