Anticancer effects of metformin on neuroendocrine tumor cells in vitro

George Vlotides, Ayse Tanyeri, Matilde Spampatti, Kathrin Zitzmann, Michael Chourdakis, Gerald Spttl, Julian Maurer, Svenja Nlting, Burkhard Gke, Christoph J. Auernhammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metformin is a widely used oral antidiabetic drug with good tolerability. Recent studies suggest that it also possesses adjuvant potent anticancer properties in a variety of tumors. Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) of the gastro-entero-pancreatic system (GEP) comprise a heterogeneous group of tumors with increasing incidence and limited effective therapeutic options. Here we report the antiproliferative effects of metformin in neuroendocrine tumor cells in vitro. Treatment of human pancreatic BON1, bronchopulmonary NCI-H727, and midgut GOT1 neuroendocrine tumor cells with increasing concentrations of metformin (0.1-10 mM) dose-dependently suppressed cell viability and cell counts. Metformin induced AMPK phosphorylation in pancreatic BON1 and midgut GOT1 but suppressed AMPK activity in bronchopulmonary NCI-H727. Thus, AMPK-dependent and AMPK-independent properties may be operative in NETs of different origin. Metformin suppressed mTORC1 signaling in all three tumor cell types, evidenced by suppression of 4EBP1, pP70S6K, and S6 phosphorylation, and was associated with compensatory AKT activity. We observed induction of ERK phosphorylation in BON1 and NCI-H727 and inhibition of ERK in midgut GOT1 cells, while all three tumor cell types responded with induction of GSK3 phosphorylation. This suggests a central role for GSK3 in metformin-mediated signal transduction. Inhibition of cell proliferation by metformin was associated with apoptosis induction only in midgut GOT1, evidenced by increased subG0/1 fraction and PARP cleavage. These results suggest a potential role of metformin as a (adjuvant) therapeutic for patients with NETs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-508
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2014


  • AMPK
  • Cell viability
  • Metformin
  • mTOR
  • Neuroendocrine tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Medicine(all)


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