Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Cancer Care

Santa Clara Medical Center

News & Events

Dr. Pan and Dr. Lee's Blog

Can an old drug play new tricks?

Oct 11, 2011

Every year a few new drugs are approved for treating cancer. Over the last two decades, a few dozen cancer drugs have come to the clinic, but only a handful of them have significantly changed the way we treat cancer and save lives. Most new drugs are not so effective, and many are also associated with undesirable and even serious side effects.

I often reflect on some old drugs that are really old, but still are very important in treating many diseases. Aspirin is one of the oldest, but is still one of the most useful drugs in treating heart disease. Recent studies have shown that aspirin may also decrease the risk of breast cancer in women.

Metformin is another very old drug. It has been used for treating diabetes for decades and is still a very important drug for treating diabetes.

Diabetes is linked to increased risk of cancer. Metformin is now linked to possibly reducing the risk of cancer. Three epidemiology studies have suggested that metformin decreases cancer incidence and cancer-related mortality by 17 to 70%. An editorial published in the European Journal of Cancer titled “Metformin, taking away candy from cancer?” discussed about these studies in detail. A summary in this NCI bulletin also contains relevant information.

A recent study in diabetic women who suffered from locally advanced breast cancer found that women who were taking metformin for the treatment of diabetes during chemotherapy had higher rates of cancer disappearing after chemotherapy, compared to women who were not taking metformin for treatment of their diabetes.

Many basic laboratory studies also support the clinical observations of metformin's potential cancer fighting effect. One such study in the journal Cancer Research showed that metformin can block genes that stimulate growth of breast cancer cells.

Because of these and other observations in patients and in laboratory, researchers hypothesize that metformin may indeed play a new role and be able to prevent certain cancers, reduce cancer relapses, or help chemotherapy to work better in treating certain cancers.

National Cancer Institute of Canada has taken a lead in this research and developed a randomized phase III clinical trial aiming to confirm this hypothesis. This trial is called MA32, and is open in Canada and the U.S. The goal of this clinical trial is to see if metformin can cut down the risk of relapse in women with invasive breast cancer but without diabetes.

Researchers hope that this study will provide scientific proof of whether or not metformin could be used to treat breast cancer. If this is found to be indeed the case, we would have another good and well tolerated drug for fighting breast cancer.

Metformin is well tolerated for most people but also has side effects. In the informed consent you will find more detail about its potential side effects.

If you have any questions, please call me, your oncologist, or our clinical trial staff. Our research nurse Ai-Shan Shih and Tatyana Pozniansky can explain this clinical trial to you in more detail. You can find her contact information in the clinical trials team page.

I wish you well and best of luck.

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