J Cancer 2017; 8(10):1744-1749. doi:10.7150/jca.17972

Short Research Communication

Metformin Inhibits Gemcitabine Induced Apoptosis in Pancreatic Cancer Cell Lines

Dietmar Zechner1*✉, Ann-Christin Albert1*, Florian Bürtin1, Brigitte Vollmar1

1. Institute for Experimental Surgery, Rostock University Medical Center, Schillingallee 69a, 18057 Rostock, Germany
*These authors contributed equally to this work

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). See http://ivyspring.com/terms for full terms and conditions.
Zechner D, Albert AC, Bürtin F, Vollmar B. Metformin Inhibits Gemcitabine Induced Apoptosis in Pancreatic Cancer Cell Lines. J Cancer 2017; 8(10):1744-1749. doi:10.7150/jca.17972. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v08p1744.htm

File import instruction


Many preclinical and clinical studies are currently evaluating metformin in combination with classical therapeutic agents as anti-cancer therapy. In this study we used three distinct pancreatic cancer cell lines and evaluated cell death by trypan blue assay and Western Blots using antibodies directed against cleaved caspase 3 and PARP. Surprisingly, we observed that 20mM metformin did not enhance, but rather inhibited gemcitabine induced cell death in murine 7265PDA, 6606PDA and 6606l cells. Microenvironmental aspects such as oxygen supply or the pH value did not influence the inhibition of cancer cell apoptosis by metformin. Glucose concentration in the medium, however, had a major effect on the impact of metformin. Medium with 0.5g/L glucose strongly increased metformin induced apoptosis and also prevented the inhibitory effect of metformin on gemcitabine induced cell apoptosis, when compared with medium containing 4.5g/L glucose. We conclude that the combination of metformin with gemcitabine has inappropriate effects for a successful treatment of pancreatic cancer. Thus, it might be more promising to use metformin in combination with other drugs that reduce the uptake or the metabolism of glucose.

Keywords: pancreatic adenocarcinoma, chemotherapy, apoptosis, microenvironment.