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Published on 16 September 2009

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Chemotherapy “can be improved”

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US scientists have discovered that breast cancer tumours can be shrunk more quickly when a common diabetes treatment is added to chemotherapy.

Researchers discovered that the drug metformin appeared to target breast cancer stem cells – which are resistant to conventional therapy – in mice, raising hopes of a more effective means of treating the disease in humans.

Study author Kevin Struhl, of Harvard Medical School, said: “What’s exciting here is we now have something that is mechanistically a different kind of killer of cancer that can synergize with chemotherapy.

“Although our studies are limited to mice and cells, metformin has a history of anti-cancer effects.

“When we had both drugs together, we lost the tumours faster, but more importantly, there was no relapse.”

The discovery follows last month’s declaration by two separate research teams that the chemical salinomycin could produce similar results.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Harvard Medical School



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