Oncology reports

Metformin potentiates the anticancer effects of cisplatin under normoxic conditions in vitro.

PMID 25421433


Metformin is a diabetes drug with anticancer properties. Several studies have investigated the effects of metformin combined with chemotherapeutic agents, with controversial results. This study evaluated the efficacy of combined metformin/cisplatin treatment in an endometrial cancer cell line. Ishikawa cells were treated with metformin, cisplatin or both types of treatment. Cell proliferation was evaluated by quantification and colorimetric and thymidine incorporation assays, cell cycle progression was assessed by flow cytometry, and apoptosis by the caspase-3 activity assay. The effects of metformin and cisplatin used in combination were assessed under normoxic (21% O2) and hypoxic (1% O2) conditions. Mitochondrial morphology was examined using the MitoTracker dye, while function was assayed by lactate production. Discrepant results were obtained from the different assays of cell proliferation, with the value obtained from the colorimetric assay being higher than that from cell counts after drug treatment. Combined treatment with metformin (≥2 mM) and cisplatin (1 µM) had additive anti-proliferative effects on cells under normoxic conditions. However, the additive effect of metformin was attenuated under hypoxia. Metformin caused morphological and functional changes in mitochondria, which appeared shortened after exposure to metformin, while the connections between individual mitochondria appeared weaker. Additionally, decreased MitoTracker staining was observed after an 8-h exposure to metformin. The colorimetric assay did not accurately determine the effects of metformin and cisplatin on cell proliferation. The additive effects of metformin on cisplatin-induced inhibition of cell proliferation were attenuated under hypoxic conditions, while metformin compromised mitochondrial structure and function. Additional studies are needed to determine the efficacy of this drug combination in vivo.