From diabetes to prostate cancer: capitalising on an unexpected treatment effect

What you need to know

  • Early research indicates that men with advanced prostate cancer, who also take the drug metformin for their diabetes, live longer and experience fewer long-term side effects from their cancer treatments.
  • Professor Noel Clarke will look at data from a large clinical trial and analyse scans, blood and tumour samples from men undergoing treatment to understand why metformin might have this effect, and who might benefit the most.
  • Because metformin is already approved for diabetes, it would be easy to use this drug alongside existing treatments for advanced prostate cancer, hopefully improving men’s quality and length of life.
We are delighted to have been awarded funding from Prostate Cancer UK to help us not only to understand the disease better but also to help men live longer and better lives.
Professor Noel Clarke

A new drug to improve lives of men with advanced prostate cancer

Hormone therapies are an important treatment for prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. They are effective but only work for a limited period of time before the cancer starts growing again. They can also cause side effects like obesity and diabetes.

Researchers believe these side effects might explain why some men who are already taking the drug metformin to treat their diabetes do better on hormone therapy than other men, and experience fewer side effects. Professor Noel Clarke, consultant urological surgeon, wants to find out if the addition of metformin does improve the quality and length of life of men receiving hormone treatment, and why this is.  

Understanding how metformin fights cancer

The team will use data from a large clinical trial called STAMPEDE. The trial randomly selects some men to receive metformin as well as hormone therapy, and some men to receive hormone therapy alone. The researchers will analyse scans, blood and tumour samples from both groups of men and compare the results against how the men’s prostate cancer progresses.

This will help them understand why metformin might help reduce side effects and improve men’s survival when taken alongside hormone therapy, and whether there are certain groups of men in which the effect is strongest.   

Potential to change clinical practice

By the end of the study, Professor Clarke and his team hope to have identified a group of men most likely to benefit from metformin in addition to hormone therapy to treat their prostate cancer. If successful, these men could soon be offered metformin as part of their routine standard of care, reducing side effects and improving outcomes of treatment. 

Grant Information

Grant Information

Reference - RIA18-ST2-021
Researcher - Professor Noel Clarke
Institution - University of Manchester
Award - £341,990.00