Metformin treatment is associated with a decreased risk and better prognosis of pancreatic cancer (PC) in patients with type 2 diabetes, but the mechanism of metformin's PC growth inhibition in the context of a prediabetic state is unknown. We used a Panc02 pancreatic tumor cell transplant model in diet-induced obese (DIO) C57BL/6 mice to compare the effects of metformin and the direct mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor rapamycin on PC growth, glucose regulation, mTOR pathway signaling, and candidate microRNA (miR) expression. In DIO/prediabetic mice, metformin and rapamycin significantly reduced pancreatic tumor growth and mTOR-related signaling. The rapamycin effects centered on decreased mTOR-regulated growth and survival signaling, including increased expression of let-7b and cell cycle-regulating miRs. Metformin (but not rapamycin) reduced glucose and insulin levels and expression of miR-34a and its direct targets Notch, Slug, and Snail. Metformin also reduced the number and size of Panc02 tumor spheres in vitro and inhibited the expression of Notch in spheroids. Our results suggest that metformin and rapamycin can both inhibit pancreatic tumor growth in obese, prediabetic mice through shared and distinct mechanisms. Metformin and direct mTOR inhibitors, alone or possibly in combination, represent promising intervention strategies for breaking the diabetes-PC link.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published