A presurgical window-of-opportunity study of metformin in obesity-driven endometrial cancer

Vanitha Sivalingam, Rhona McVey, Kyle Gilmour, Saad Ali, Chris Roberts, Andrew Renehan, Henry Kitchener, Emma Crosbie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Metformin use is associated with reduced cancer risk in several observational studies of patients with type 2 diabetes. Results from preclinical studies in endometrial cancer show that metformin reduces cellular proliferation by inhibition of the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway. We tested the hypothesis that metformin would reduce cellular proliferation in vivo in atypical endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial endometrioid adenocarcinoma. METHODS: We recruited women attending gynaecological oncology clinics in Manchester, UK, with atypical endometrial hyperplasia or endometrial endometrioid adenocarcinoma. Women received metformin (850 mg twice daily) or no drug (control) during the 1-4 week presurgical window between cancer diagnosis and hysterectomy according to patient preference. Paired blood and tumour samples were obtained at recruitment and hysterectomy. Cellular proliferation was assessed by Ki-67 proliferation index. Automated scoring on two separate occasions provided consistent replicate scores (SD <10%). This study is registered with the ISRCTN register, number ISRCTN81570194. FINDINGS: Samples from 40 women have been analysed (28 metformin-treated [median age 64 years, IQR 58-69]; 12 control [70, 64-70]). 24 of the patients (60%) were obese. 22 patients (55%) had either undiagnosed diabetes (fasting glucose >7·0 mmol/L, n=4) or insulin resistance (homoeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance >2·8, n=18). Metformin was taken for a median of 20 days (IQR 17-24), and mild gastrointestinal side-effects were reported by 22 metformin-treated patients. In the metformin-treated group, Ki-67 was 12·9% lower at hysterectomy than at recruitment (95% CI 3·7-22·1, p=0·008) after adjustment for baseline Ki-67, Ki-67 change in controls, age, and body-mass index. No significant changes in phosphorylation of AKT or markers of insulin resistance after adjustment for treatment arm were seen. INTERPRETATION: Undiagnosed insulin resistance or diabetes were common in our study population. Short-term presurgical metformin was associated with a reduction in Ki-67 proliferation index. We are now exploring the hypothesis that metformin reduces Ki-67 expression by inducing phosphorylation of AMP-activated kinase and subsequent mTOR proproliferative inhibition, independent of insulin and insulin-like growth factor receptor activation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Lancet
Issue numberS90
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2015

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


Dive into the research topics of 'A presurgical window-of-opportunity study of metformin in obesity-driven endometrial cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this