Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States. Although some epidemiological studies have shown an inverse relationship between the use of metformin, a widely used antidiabetic drug, and the incidence of lung cancer, the real benefits of the drug are unclear as the efficacy is low and the outcomes are quite heterogeneous. To develop a more potent form of metformin, we synthesized mitochondria-targeted metformin (mitomet) and tested its efficacy in in vitro and in vivo models of lung cancer. Mitomet was cytotoxic to transformed bronchial cells and several non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines but relatively safe to normal bronchial cells, and these effects were mediated mainly via induction of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species. Studies using isogenic A549 cells showed that mitomet was selectively toxic to those cells deficient in the tumor suppressor gene LKB1, which is widely mutated in NSCLC. Mitomet also significantly reduced the multiplicity and size of lung tumors induced by a tobacco smoke carcinogen in mice. Overall, our findings showed that mitomet, which was about 1000 and 100 times more potent than metformin, in killing NSCLC cells and reducing the multiplicity and size of lung tumors in mice, respectively, is a promising candidate for the chemoprevention and treatment of lung cancer, in particular against LKB1-deficient lung cancers which are known to be highly aggressive.
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© 2023 The Authors. Molecular Carcinogenesis published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.
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