Potential Benefit of Metformin as Treatment for Colon Cancer: the Evidence so Far


Metformin is known as a hypoglycaemic agent that regulates glucose homeostasis by inhibiting liver glucose production and increasing muscle glucose uptake. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide, with about a million new cases diagnosed each year. The risk factors for CRC include advanced age, smoking, black race, obesity, low fibre diet, insulin resistance, and the metabolic syndrome. We have searched Medline for the metabolic syndrome and its relation to CRC, and metformin as a potential treatment of colorectal cancer. Administration of metformin alone or in combination with chemotherapy has been shown to suppress CRC. The mechanism that explains how insulin resistance is associated with CRC is complex and not fully understood. In this review we have summarised studies which showed an association with the metabolic syndrome as well as studies which tackled metformin as a potential treatment of CRC. In addition, we have also provided a summary of how metformin at the cellular level can induce changes that suppress the activity of cancer cells.