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Diabetes Drug May Protect Your Liver Against Cancer

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liver may be protected from cancer by diabetes drug Hemera/Thinkstock

The drug metformin sold under the brand name of Glucophage has been studied by researchers at University of Maryland School of Medicine. They point out that this drug may help protect against cancer of the liver.

Metformin is prescribed as an oral medication to help treat and manage type 2 diabetes.

Though metformin is also being studied for its role in the prevention of other cancers, its effect on protecting the liver against cancer was first observed by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The findings of the study were published in the April issue of the medical journal of the American Association for Cancer Prevention, "Cancer Prevention Research". (1)

The generic drug metformin is a well-tolerated first-line drug of choice prescribed to treat those with type 2 (and not type 1) diabetes who are also overweight or obese, but have normal kidney function. "Metformin acts by increasing the sensitivity of liver, muscle, fat, and other tissues to the uptake and effects of insulin. These actions lower the level of sugar in the blood".

Metformin has also been found to prevent the cardiovascular complications that occur in diabetics as it helps reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and is not associated with weight gain.

Metformin does not increase the concentration of insulin in the blood and, therefore, does not cause excessively low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) when used. (2)

According to Geoffrey Girnun, Ph.D, the study lead and assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, “Since many of the effects of the drug take place in the liver, we were surprised when we reviewed the literature that there was no direct evidence for a protective effect of metformin in liver cancer except for a few retrospective epidemiological studies.” (3)

The study was based on the mice model where liver tumors were induced in the mice with the aid of chemicals. It was noted that those mice which were on metformin showed minimal tumor growth as opposed to the group that were not administered metformin.

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