A certain diabetes drug can be used as ovarian cancer treatment. The medication significantly improves the chances of survival for ovarian cancer patients.

The prognosis for women suffering from ovarian cancer is usually bleak, with a 50 percent survival expectancy for only a 5 year period. However, the chances of making it to the five year mark can be significantly increased by the intake of a common diabetes drug.

Diabetes drug – ovarian cancer treatmentScientists from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found that almost 70 percent of the women suffering from ovarian cancer who were taking the diabetes drug Metformin lived for five years and more after being diagnosed. Only 50 percent of the patients who did not take the diabetes drug made it to the five year mark.

So far, researchers don’t have an actual explanation for the way Metformin can extend the life expectancy in some ovarian cancer patients, but have a number of theories. Sanjeey Kumar, gynecologic oncologist at Mayo Clinic, explained they are working on theories “such as acting through stem cells, cancer stem cells, or depriving the cancer cells of energy supply or glucose.”

The stem cells are master cells that can take the form of any tissue inside the human body and in the ovaries they produce normal ovarian cells. Yet, certain genes can turn the master cells into cancerous ones. Metformin reduces the levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides in type 2 diabetes. The drug is also used, outside its dedicated diabetes purpose, in a condition called polycystic ovarian disease, which determines an abnormal level of the reproductive hormone as well as causes small cysts on the ovaries.

The researchers compared the survival rate of the 61 ovarian cancer patients who were taking Metformin to that of the 178 women who weren’t. The results took in consideration the patient’s weight, cancer severity and chemotherapy regimens and showed that the women on the diabetes drug were almost four times more likely to survive for at least five more years.