WHAT IF a 50-year-old drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes could be used to prevent and treat cancer? The drug, called metformin, is inexpensive and has minimal side effects, making it a potentially excellent new cancer therapy.
Dr. Pamela Goodwin is leading a potentially lifesaving clinical trial that could improve survival and reduce recurrence for women with breast cancer using metformin. The international clinical trial, funded in part by the Canadian Cancer Society, expects to enrol over 3,500 women, involving patients at cancer centres across Ontario, including Lakeridge Health in Oshawa.
Metformin was originally designed for diabetics to help them control blood sugar levels. But when a number of studies observed that diabetic patients taking metformin also developed cancer at a lower rate, scientists began investigating whether it also has cancer-fighting properties.
"We hope that this clinical trial shows that metformin is an innovative and inexpensive treatment option for breast cancer," explains Dr. Goodwin. "If successful, the potential impact of this drug could be large, both in Canada and around the world."
Researchers like Dr. Goodwin have uncovered a staggering amount of information about breast cancer over the last 25 years. This revolution in our understanding of this disease has set the stage for a new era in therapy and prevention, due in part to the many studies and clinical trials funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.