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The anti-diabetic drug metformin protects against chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in a mouse model.

PloS one (2014-06-24)
Qi-Liang Mao-Ying, Annemieke Kavelaars, Karen Krukowski, Xiao-Jiao Huo, Wenjun Zhou, Theodore J Price, Charles Cleeland, Cobi J Heijnen

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) characterized by loss of sensory sensitivity and pain in hands and feet is the major dose-limiting toxicity of many chemotherapeutics. At present, there are no FDA-approved treatments for CIPN. The anti-diabetic drug metformin is the most widely used prescription drug in the world and improves glycemic control in diabetes patients. There is some evidence that metformin enhances the efficacy of cancer treatment. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that metformin protects against chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain and sensory deficits. Mice were treated with cisplatin together with metformin or saline. Cisplatin induced increased sensitivity to mechanical stimulation (mechanical allodynia) as measured using the von Frey test. Co-administration of metformin almost completely prevented the cisplatin-induced mechanical allodynia. Co-administration of metformin also prevented paclitaxel-induced mechanical allodynia. The capacity of the mice to detect an adhesive patch on their hind paw was used as a novel indicator of chemotherapy-induced sensory deficits. Co-administration of metformin prevented the cisplatin-induced increase in latency to detect the adhesive patch indicating that metformin prevents sensory deficits as well. Moreover, metformin prevented the reduction in density of intra-epidermal nerve fibers (IENFs) in the paw that develops as a result of cisplatin treatment. We conclude that metformin protects against pain and loss of tactile function in a mouse model of CIPN. The finding that metformin reduces loss of peripheral nerve endings indicates that mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of metformin includes a neuroprotective activity. Because metformin is widely used for treatment of type II diabetes, has a broad safety profile, and is currently being tested as an adjuvant drug in cancer treatment, clinical translation of these findings could be rapidly achieved.

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