Scientists from the University of Manchester in the UK and Thomas Jefferson University in the US have developed a test to identify breast cancer patients who would benefit from treatment with 10p-a-day diabetes drug metformin.

A team at the University of Manchester’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit grew cancer cells on high-energy foods such as lactates and ketones, identifying the expressing genes and then developing a gene signature based on it.

“The food cancer cells consume is crucial to how well a patient does and what treatment they need,” said Professor Michael Lisanti of the Breakthrough Breast
Cancer Research Unit.

Tumours that consume high-energy food are difficult to treat. Metformin, however, reduces this fuel supply.

The team examined 219 breast cancer patients and, based on the ‘food’ cancer cells method, predicted which patients show poor prognosis and could benefit from metformin.