Chris Nicol of Queen's University in Ontario has been investigating a protein that the drugs utilize to help maintain normal fat and sugar metabolism to treat Type II diabetes.
The protein has recently been found to lessen malignancy and control the metastatic spread of certain breast cancer tumors, a university release said Tuesday.
"It's possible that these diabetes drugs could ultimately be used, alone or in combination with existing chemotherapeutic drugs, to treat some forms of breast cancer," Nicol, a professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, said.
The finding suggests women who have reduced activity of the protein in their breast or associated cells are more likely to develop more tumors, he said.
"We know obesity is a risk factor for many other diseases, including diabetes and breast cancer," Nicol said. "With the current obesity epidemic, our bodies have more circulating fats than we can normally handle, and this protein may be unable to exert its anti-cancer effects without some assistance."