A Metabolic Inhibitory Cocktail for Grave Cancers: Metformin, Pioglitazone and Lithium Combination in Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer and Glioblastoma Multiforme

Elmaci I. , Altinoz M. A.

BIOCHEMICAL GENETICS, vol.54, no.5, pp.573-618, 2016 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 54 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10528-016-9754-9
  • Title of Journal : BIOCHEMICAL GENETICS
  • Page Numbers: pp.573-618


Pancreatic cancer (PC) and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) are among the human cancers with worst prognosis which require an urgent need for efficient therapies. Here, we propose to apply to treat both malignancies with a triple combination of drugs, which are already in use for different indications. Recent studies demonstrated a considerable link between risk of PC and diabetes. In experimental models, anti-diabetogenic agents suppress growth of PC, including metformin (M), pioglitazone (P) and lithium (L). L is used in psychiatric practice, yet also bears anti-diabetic potential and selectively inhibits glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta (GSK-3 beta). M, a biguanide class anti-diabetic agent shows anticancer activity via activating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Glitazones bind to PPAR-gamma and inhibit NF-kappa B, triggering cell proliferation, apoptosis resistance and synthesis of inflammatory cytokines in cancer cells. Inhibition of inflammatory cytokines could simultaneously decrease tumor growth and alleviate cancer cachexia, having a major role in PC mortality. Furthermore, mutual synergistic interactions exist between PPAR-gamma and GSK-3 beta, between AMPK and GSK-3 beta and between AMPK and PPAR-gamma. In GBM, M blocks angiogenesis and migration in experimental models. Very noteworthy, among GBM patients with type 2 diabetes, usage of M significantly correlates with better survival while reverse is true for sulfonylureas. In experimental models, P synergies with ligands of RAR, RXR and statins in reducing growth of GBM. Further, usage of P was found to be lesser in anaplastic astrocytoma and GBM patients, indicating a protective effect of P against high-grade gliomas. L is accumulated in GBM cells faster and higher than in neuroblastoma cells, and its levels further increase with chronic exposure. Recent studies revealed anti-invasive potential of L in GBM cell lines. Here, we propose that a triple-agent regime including drugs already in clinical usage may provide a metabolic adjuvant therapy for PC and GBM.