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Press Release

Widely Prescribed Oral Diabetes Drug Leads to Dramatic Breakthrough Cancer Treatment

Nagourney Cancer Institute
Posted on: 06 Feb 18

Investigators at the Nagourney Cancer Institute, Long Beach, CA, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), Oakland, CA, and Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein (HIAE), Sao Paulo, Brazil, report a breakthrough for the treatment of a highly lethal form of cancer that afflicts young people in the prime of their lives. The paper titled, “Efficacy Of Oral Metformin In A Patient With Metastatic Adrenocortical Carcinoma: Examination Of Mechanisms And Therapeutic Implications," appears in the January 31, 2018 issue of Rare Tumors. Read the studylink here.

Researchers at the Nagourney Cancer Institute used a laboratory technique known as Ex Vivo Analysis of Programmed Cell Death (EVA/PCD) to examine cancerous tissue removed directly from the patient’s lung. A metastatic adrenal tumor, having previously failed surgery and intensive chemotherapy, was rapidly spreading throughout the patient’s body. Adrenal cortical cancer is a rare and highly aggressive cancer that arises in the adrenal gland located just above the kidney. With an annual incidence of 1-2 per million the five-year survival for advanced disease is only seven percent. When DNA analysis identified a very rare mutation in the gene TP53, Dr. Nagourney was intrigued and contacted his colleagues at CHORI. Together they unraveled a novel pathway for the patient’s response.

“With virtually no treatment options, this brave 26 year-old young woman traveled with her family from southern Brazil to California where she underwent a surgical biopsy for EVA/PCD tissue study,” said Dr. Robert Nagourney, whose laboratory conducted the analysis as part of ongoing research into cancer cell metabolism. “The findings were extremely unexpected. The widely used diabetes drug metformin has far reaching chemical effects that are under intense investigation, but the dramatic activity against this woman’s tumor was not anticipated,” he added.

The patient returned to Brazil, where her physician began oral metformin. Just two months later, her CT scan revealed the disappearance of her cancer. She remains well two and a halfyears later.

“This represents a conceptual breakthrough,“ said Dr. Nagourney. “Using each patient’s tumor to identify treatments has been the holy grail of oncology, but precision medicine based on DNA studies to select active drugs has been disappointing.” He added that the EVA/PCD approach “reverse engineers” the process by first finding the right drug and then exploring the genetic basis, saving time, money and possibly the lives of patients in need. “With the rapidly growing interest in the metabolic basis of cancer, metformin and drugs like it may offer new hope for patients with advanced malignancies,” Dr. Nagourney said.

Dr. Nagourney is an internationally recognized pioneer in cancer research and personalized cancer treatment. He is the medical and laboratory director at the Nagourney Cancer Institute (formerly Rational Therapeutics, Inc.). He is triple board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hematology. Among his many accomplishments as co-investigator on national cooperative trials, Dr. Nagourney is recognized for the introduction of Cisplatin/Gemcitabine doublets in the treatment of advanced ovarian and breast cancers. He is a clinical professor at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. He has authored more than 100 manuscripts, book chapters and abstracts.

About the Nagourney Cancer Institute

The Nagourney Cancer Institute is a clinical research center that has pioneered the study of human tumor tissue for individualized cancer patient drug selection and has facilitated cancer drug discovery.

About Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute

Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute is a biomedical research institute affiliated with California’s pediatric medical center, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.

About Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein

The Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, founded in 1971, is an internationally recognized medical center with expertise in the management of advanced cancers.

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Last updated on: 06/02/2018

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