SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Treating aggressive lung cancer with the diabetes drug metformin along with radiation and chemotherapy may slow tumor growth and recurrence, suggests new preliminary findings from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania being presented during an oral abstract session October 28 at the 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer.
The preclinical and clinical results, which have set the stage for a first-of-its-kind prospective study, point to metformin as an effective radiosensitizer—adrug that makes tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy—to treat stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Because of poor local response and five-year survival rates around 15 percent in late-stage NSCLC patients, well-tolerated, combination therapies are greatly needed.
The abstract is being presented by Ildiko Csiki, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.
Metformin, the most-widely used drug for type-2 diabetes, has been shown to have anti-cancer effects on a number of cancers, including prostate and colon. It activates AMP-related pathways, leading to inactivation of mTOR and suppression of its downstream effectors, a crucial signaling pathway for proliferation and survival of cancer. However, little data exists to support its role in NSCLC. And its role as a radiosensitizer in lung cancer is even less understood.
For this study, clinical evidence from 16 diabetic patients treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania between June 2008 and June 2013 with stage III A and B NSCLC and diabetes demonstrated that chemoradiation therapy in combination with metformin dramatically improved local recurrence. With a median follow-up time of 10.4 months, only two local recurrences have occurred.
Researchers also observed a survival benefit with the combination.
“Our clinical experience demonstrates patients receiving definitive chemoradiation for stage III NSCLC who took metformin for diabetes had improved local control and overall survival compared with our patients not taking metformin and compared with historical controls,” said Dr. Csiki.
On the preclinical side, Penn researchers developed a mouse model of lung cancer to evaluate the tumor growth delay after using metformin as a radiosensitizing agent. They tracked tumor size in mice injected with metformin undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Tumor measurements were taken every other day and tumor growth delay was plotted.
Early data from those experiments supports the use of metformin as a radiosensitizing agent, said Dr. Csiki.
“Such findings, along with our clinical retrospective data, will lead to institutional prospective clinical trials, for the first-time, using metformin as a radiosensitizing agent in combination with radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of lung and potentially other cancers,” the authors write.
Co-authors from Penn Medicine include Charles B. Simone, Marina Heskel, Peter Gabriel, Hyun Kim, Souvik Dey, Costas Koumenis, and Michael N. Corradetti from Harvard.
This study is one of a 13 Penn Medicine studies and talks being presented at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer.
Abstract #MO05.10: Metformin as a Radiosensitizer for Lung Cancer
Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.
Department of Communications
For Patients and the General Public: