Metformin and everolimus: A promising combination for neuroendocrine tumors treatment

Eleonora Vitali, Ilena Boemi, Giulia Tarantola, Sara Piccini, Alessandro Zerbi, Giulia Veronesi, Roberto Baldelli, Gherardo Mazziotti, Valeria Smiroldo, Elisabetta Lavezzi, Anna Spada, Giovanna Mantovani, Andrea G. Lania

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Treatment options for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are rarely curative, as NETs frequently show resistance to medical therapy. The use of everolimus, an mTOR inhibitor, is limited by the development of resistance, probably due to the activation of Akt signaling. In this context, the antidiabetic drug metformin is able to inhibit mTOR, providing a rationale for the use of metformin and everolimus in combination. Methods: We investigated the effects of the metformin and everolimus combination on NET cell proliferation, apoptosis, colony formation, cell viability, NET spheroids growth and the involvement of the Akt and mTOR pathways, and also developed everolimus-resistant NET cells to further study this combination. Results: Metformin and everolimus in combination are more effective than monotherapy in inhibiting pancreatic NET (PAN-NET) cell proliferation (−71% ± 13%, p < 0.0001 vs. basal), whereas no additive effects were observed on pulmonary neuroendocrine tumor (PNT) cell proliferation. The combinatorial treatment is more effective than monotherapy in inhibiting colony formation, cell viability, NET spheroids growth rate and mTOR phosphorylation in both NET cell lines. In a PAN-NET cell line, metformin did not affect Akt phosphorylation; conversely, it significantly decreased Akt phosphorylation in a PNT cell line. Using everolimus-resistant NET cells, we confirmed that metformin maintained its effects, acting by two different pathways: Akt-dependent or independent, depending on the cell type, with both leading to mTOR suppression. Conclusions: Considering the promising effects of the everolimus and metformin combination in NET cells, our results provide a rationale for its use in NET patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2143
Number of pages18
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Everolimus
  • Metformin
  • Neuroendocrine tumors
  • Resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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