Xie J, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020.
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients have poor overall survival despite using irinotecan- or oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy combined with anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) drugs, especially those with the oncogene mutation of KRAS Metformin has been reported as a potentially novel antitumor agent in many experiments, but its therapeutic activity is discrepant and controversial so far. Inspiringly, the median survival time for KRAS-mutation mCRC patients with diabetes on metformin is 37.8 mo longer than those treated with other hypoglycemic drugs in combination with standard systemic therapy. In contrast, metformin could not improve the survival of mCRC patients with wild-type KRAS Interestingly, metformin is preferentially accumulated in KRAS-mutation mCRC cells, but not wild-type ones, in both primary cell cultures and patient-derived xenografts, which is in agreement with its tremendous effect in KRAS-mutation mCRC. Mechanistically, the mutated KRAS oncoprotein hypermethylates and silences the expression of multidrug and toxic compound extrusion 1 (MATE1), a specific pump that expels metformin from the tumor cells by up-regulating DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1). Our findings provide evidence that KRAS-mutation mCRC patients benefit from metformin treatment and targeting MATE1 may provide a strategy to improve the anticancer response of metformin.