LSU Preclinical Investigator Pursues Metformin as a ‘Miracle Drug’ Against Cancer

FDA Grants Accelerated Approval to BeiGene’s Brukinsa (zanabrutinib) for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

A LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine researchers, Suresh Alahari, recently published the results of a preclinical study indicating that metformin, a diabetes drug, could also combat against cancerous tumors. Metformin is a drug that has been approved and in use in France since the 1950s and in America since 1994.

Breast Cancer in the U.S.

About 268,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in just a year while 41,000 will die from the disease. A Louisiana preclinical research investigators suspect a common drug to prevent it altogether, or at least stop the progression of the disease may already be available—Metformin.

The Study

Professor Alahari and team set up studies using genetically altered mice to investigate if metformin could increase a key enzyme level linked to tumor prevention. The mice were designed with a discharging deficiency, a protein—which in turn inactivated the AMPK enzyme. In the study the mice that didn’t receive metformin actually developed pervasive amounts of tumors while the mice that were given metformin, which activates AMPK, developed far fewer tumors—even more than were genetically normal. The investigator, Suresh Alahari.

Is Metformin a Potential “Miracle Drug”?

A growing body of research points to Metformin, a compound that regulates blood sugar, as a potential “miracle drug.” Emily Woodruff writing for New Orleans-based NOLA reports that metformin is being used off-label for uses such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and prediabetes without FDA approval. Moreover, Ms. Woodruff reports on use by the “Superagers” who are on a mission to stop aging and remain active and healthy for much longer than normal. Woodruff and NOLA did a search of and found that the drug is being used by a range of different sponsors for everything from dementia to autoimmune disease prevention. Metformin originates from the French lilac or goat’s rue (Galega officinalis), a plant used in folk medicine for many centuries. 

Animal Studies Reveal Promise to Prevent Cancers

Metformin has been shown in animal studies to be potential assistance in blocking cancers. In human-trials, the focus of sponsors and research centers has been in large diabetes studies. Dr. Kishore Gadde, the medical director of clinical services at LSU-affiliated Pennington Biomedical Research Center reports that “If you look at epidemiological studies, you find that with metformin there is a reduction in cancer risk somewhere between 30 and 40% reports Ms. Woodruff. Dr. Gadde is studying metformin’s effect on obesity and longevity—he noted that Alahari’s findings on breast cancer were compelling.


There are a number of proponents for studying metformin for a range of diseases including cancer. As it is cheap more than likely the government will have to step in and use taxpayer funding to augment the lack of industry investment that would be required for intensified research efforts across therapeutic areas including oncology.

Lead Research/Investigator

Professor Alahari, LSU Health