University of Arizona Cancer Center researcher H-H. Sherry Chow has received $2.8 million to study how an anti-diabetes drug may reduce breast cancer risk.
Chow said recent studies found that treatment with metformin, a widely used anti-diabetes drug, appears to substantially reduce the risk for development of cancer in diabetics, including breast cancer.
“Studies have also shown that metformin’s breast cancer preventive activities may be mediated through its favorable effects on the body’s metabolism and hormone imbalance and metformin may only suppress cancer in individuals who are overweight and have metabolic disturbances,” Chow said.
Studies suggest that approximately 20 percent of breast cancer cases in postmenopausal women are attributable to adulthood weight gain, and the increased risk of breast cancer in overweight women is likely to be attributed to multiple metabolic disturbances, she said.
Chow’s study will focus on overweight premenopausal women with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions – a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels and increased blood pressure. Studies suggest that metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast cancer after menopause.
Using the five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute, Chow and her team will study the effect of metformin intervention on breast density using a novel imaging technique, determine the effect of metformin intervention on metabolic disturbances and body weight/composition, and explore the application of metabolomics – the systematic study of end products (metabolites) of specific cellular processes – as a systems biology approach to assess the chemopreventive mechanisms of metformin.
“Our proposed study represents the initial steps in clinical evaluation of metformin for modulation of breast cancer risk in a population at risk for multiple diseases. Findings from this study will have wide public health impact because of the growing overweight and obese populations,” Chow said.
Chow, a professor of medicine at the UA, is an active cancer prevention investigator. She co-leads the Cancer Center’s Early Phase Cancer Chemoprevention Consortium, which in 2012 received $9.6 million to support clinical and translational research of cancer preventive drugs or neutraceuticals. The Early Phase Consortium has been funded by the National Cancer Institute since 2003.