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Researchers Gain Better Understanding of Diabetic Drug That Could Slow Mesothelioma Growth

Researchers at McGill University and the University of Montreal conducting a follow-up study to the previous findings that the diabetic medication metformin can slow the growth of lung cancer cells, and potentially suppress mesothelioma growth, not only confirmed the results, but they also have a better understanding of how the drug works to fight cancer.  

According to a news article from McGill University, metformin “reduces the cellular mutation rate and the accumulation of DNA damage.”  The researchers report that while it is widely known that such mutations are directly involved in causing cancer, no other researchers have shown that the risk of developing cancer can be reduced by inhibiting the mutation rate. 

Pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, is caused by breathing in asbestos dust.  The microscopic fibers penetrate the lungs and damages the healthy mesothelial cells.  In effect, asbestos damages DNA, the material within a cell that provides each person’s genetic blueprint, causing faults in genes that then leads to cancer.  If the DNA damage can be prevented, mesothelioma may not form. 

During the study, the researchers found that metformin, a drug used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, reduces DNA damage by reducing levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are known to be DNA-damaging agents produced as by-products when cells generate energy from nutrients, according to the article. 

Dr. Michael Pollak, professor in McGill’s Departments of Medicine and Oncology, researcher at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital and the study’s director,  said, “This study opens an exciting new direction in cancer-prevention research.”  He added while further studies are needed, “the possibility of protecting DNA from oxidative damage by the use of a well-tolerated drug was not expected.” 

Close to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma yearly.  Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, it can be treated with varying degrees of success through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation. 

The full article was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 7 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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