Metformin, a drug commonly prescribed to treat diabetes, has shown promise in treating a rare type of childhood brain tumour, according to an international research team led by the University of Michigan’s Health Rogel Cancer Center.PFAs, or posterior fossa ependymomas, are tumours that affect neurons in the brain or spinal cord.
They can occur at any age, but most commonly affect children. Most cancers are thought to be caused by genetic mutations or errors, but PFAs do not have such cancer-causing genetic mutations.The study, published on October 5 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, discovered that the main cause of the tumour was a disruption in two metabolic pathways previously linked to DIPGs—glycolysis and the mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid cycle, a series of enzyme-driven chemical reactions required by all living cells that use oxygen for respiration.
When looking for ways to suppress glucose metabolism – the same process that drives PFA tumours – diabetes treatment was an obvious field to turn to. As a result, the researchers decided to test how metformin, a common diabetes drug, affected PFA tumour cells.”Metformin suppressed the metabolism of cancer cells and killed them in some PFA ependymoma tumours, according to our findings.
Surprisingly, we discovered that metformin lowers EZHIP, the protein that was causing these epigenetic changes in the first place “Sriram Venneti, professor of pathology at Michigan Medicine, explained the findings in a report published on the university’s website.Meanwhile, in a subset of metformin-sensitive tumours, metformin reduced tumour metabolism, shrank tumours, and resulted in longer survival times in mice.
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