Metformin Enhances the Anti-Cancer Efficacy of Sorafenib via Suppressing MAPK/ERK/Stat3 Axis in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Sumit Siddharth, Panjamurthy Kuppusamy, Qitong Wu, Arumugam Nagalingam, Neeraj K. Saxena, Dipali Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) incidence, as well as related mortality, has been steadily increasing in the USA and across the globe, partly due to the lack of effective therapeutic options for advanced HCC. Though sorafenib is considered standard-of-care for advanced HCC, it only improves median survival by a few months when compared to placebo. Sorafenib is also associated with several unpleasant side effects that often lead to early abatement of therapy. Here, we investigate whether a combination regimen including low-dose sorafenib and a non-toxic dose of anti-diabetic drug metformin can achieve effective inhibition of HCC. Indeed, combining metformin with low-dose sorafenib inhibited growth, proliferation, migration, and invasion potential of HCC cells. We observed a 5.3- and 1.9-fold increase in sub-G1 population in the combination treatment compared to sorafenib alone. We found that the combination of metformin enhanced the efficacy of sorafenib and inhibited the MAPK/ERK/Stat3 axis. Our in vivo studies corroborated the in vitro findings, and mice harboring HepG2-derived tumors showed effective tumor reduction upon treatment with low-dose sorafenib and metformin combination. This work sheds light on a therapeutic strategy aiming to augment sorafenib efficacy or dose-de-escalation that may prove beneficial in circumventing sorafenib resistance as well as minimizing related side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8083
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • ERK
  • MAPK
  • Stat3
  • combination treatment
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • metformin
  • sorafenib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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