Inhibition of midkine by metformin can contribute to its anticancer effects in malignancies: A proposal mechanism of action of metformin in context of endometrial cancer prevention and therapy.Med Hypotheses 2019; 134:109420MH
Metformin, a drug widely used in the treatment of type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM), has been the focus of interest as a potential therapeutic agent for certain types of malignancies, including gynaecological cancers [i.e. endometrial cancer (EC)]. Although the exact mechanism behind the potential anticancer activity of metformin is still not completely understood, certain studies have suggested that different effects on cell functions, such as inhibition of cell migration, apoptosis and tumor cell proliferation, are involved in its preventive and therapeutic effects in certain types of malignancies, including EC. In contrast, midkine (MK), a heparin-binding growth factor and cytokine, which induces carcinogenesis and chemoresistance, promotes the development and progression of many malignant tumours by increasing diverse cell functions such as cell proliferation, cell survival and antiapoptotic activities via mainly the activation of phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. The same pathways are also subject to certain therapeutic effects of metformin, although this cytokine and this drug have some different mechanism of action pathways as well. Taken together, MK and metformin appear to have opposite effects in various biological processes such as apoptosis, cell proliferation, cell survival, cell migration, and angiogenesis. On the other hand, MK activates PI3K and MAPK cell signal pathways, whereas metformin inhibits these two pathways. It seems likely that almost all the pathways and cell functions, which play important roles in malignancies, are inhibited by metformin and activated by MK. Given the opposite relationship between the actions of metformin and MK, we hypothesize that metformin may act like a novel MK inhibitor in some malignancies. We also discuss the possible relationship between metformin and MK in the context of EC, the most common gynecological cancer worldwide, which incidence is rising rapidly, in parallel with the increase in obesity, T2DM and insulin resistance. In this respect, the therapeutic use of metformin may improve the survival of EC or other cancers, via inhibiting or overcoming the unwanted effects of MK in carcinogenesis.