London: A low cost diabetes drug could benefit breast cancer sufferers.
Anthony Howell, director of the breakthrough breast cancer research unit at the University of Manchester, said: "We have some way to go but we hope that drugs like metformin will be saving lives of breast cancer patients over the next few years."
Scientists have developed a new test that identifies patients who could benefit from the cheap treatment, reports the journal Cell Cycle.
They found that the people whose cancer cells "fed" off high-energy compounds were more likely to see their tumours spread than to die, the Telegraph reports.
This meant they could be helped by being given metformin, which stops the "fuel supply" for aggressive cancer cells.
Howell`s counterpart, Michael Lisanti at Manchester, said: "We`ve shown that the saying, `you are what you eat` holds true for cancer. The food cancer cells consume is crucial to how well a patient does and what treatment they need."
"However, patients could benefit from metformin, which cuts off this fuel supply. There is more work to do but this test could be an important new way of tailoring treatments to a patient`s needs, across a range of cancers."
Last year it was reported that metformin was being tested to see if it can stop the growth of lung cancers.
Researchers from Manchester and Thomas Jefferson University in the US studied 219 breast cancer patients and worked out which ones had tumours that fed on high-energy foods, known as ketones and lactate, found in healthy cells.