Imaging Metformin Efficacy as Add-On Therapy in Cells and Mouse Models of Human EGFR Glioblastoma

Silvia Valtorta, Alessia Lo Dico, Isabella Raccagni, Cristina Martelli, Valentina Pieri, Paolo Rainone, Sergio Todde, Bastian Zinnhardt, Elisabetta De Bernardi, Angela Coliva, Letterio S. Politi, Thomas Viel, Andreas H. Jacobs, Rossella Galli, Luisa Ottobrini, Valentina Vaira, Rosa Maria Moresco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glioblastoma (GBM) is a highly aggressive tumor of the brain. Despite the efforts, response to current therapies is poor and 2-years survival rate ranging from 6-12%. Here, we evaluated the preclinical efficacy of Metformin (MET) as add-on therapy to Temozolomide (TMZ) and the ability of [18F]FLT (activity of thymidine kinase 1 related to cell proliferation) and [18F]VC701 (translocator protein, TSPO) Positron Emission Tomography (PET) radiotracers to predict tumor response to therapy. Indeed, TSPO is expressed on the outer mitochondrial membrane of activated microglia/macrophages, tumor cells, astrocytes and endothelial cells. TMZ-sensitive (Gli36ΔEGFR-1 and L0627) or -resistant (Gli36ΔEGFR-2) GBM cell lines representative of classical molecular subtype were tested in vitro and in vivo in orthotopic mouse models. Our results indicate that in vitro, MET increased the efficacy of TMZ on TMZ-sensitive and on TMZ-resistant cells by deregulating the balance between pro-survival (bcl2) and pro-apoptotic (bax/bad) Bcl-family members and promoting early apoptosis in both Gli36ΔEGFR-1 and Gli36ΔEGFR-2 cells. In vivo, MET add-on significantly extended the median survival of tumor-bearing mice compared to TMZ-treated ones and reduced the rate of recurrence in the TMZ-sensitive models. PET studies with the cell proliferation radiopharmaceutical [18F]FLT performed at early time during treatment were able to distinguish responder from non-responder to TMZ but not to predict the duration of the effect. On the contrary, [18F]VC701 uptake was reduced only in mice treated with MET plus TMZ and levels of uptake negatively correlated with animals’ survival. Overall, our data showed that MET addition improved TMZ efficacy in GBM preclinical models representative of classical molecular subtype increasing survival time and reducing tumor relapsing rate. Finally, results from PET imaging suggest that the reduction of cell proliferation represents a common mechanism of TMZ and combined treatment, whereas only the last was able to reduce TSPO. This reduction was associated with the duration of treatment response. TSPO-ligand may be used as a complementary molecular imaging marker to predict tumor microenvironment related treatment effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number664149
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - May 3 2021


  • EGFR - epidermal growth factor receptor
  • GBM - glioblastoma multiforme
  • inflammation
  • metformin
  • PET imaging
  • TSPO
  • [F]FLT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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