UBC Faculty Research and Publications

SGLT2 Inhibitors as Potential Anticancer Agents Basak, Debasish; Gamez, David; Deb, Subrata


Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) serves as a critical glucose transporter that has been reported to be overexpressed in cancer models, followed by increased glucose uptake in both mice and humans. Inhibition of its expression can robustly thwart tumor development in vitro and in vivo. SGLT2 inhibitors are a comparatively new class of antidiabetic drugs that have demonstrated anticancer effects in several malignancies, including breast, liver, pancreatic, thyroid, prostate, and lung cancers. This review aims to assess the extent of SGLT involvement in different cancer cell lines and discuss the pharmacology, mechanisms of action, and potential applications of SGLT2 inhibitors to reduce tumorigenesis and its progression. Although these agents display a common mechanism of action, they exhibit distinct affinity towards the SGLT type 2 transporter compared to the SGLT type 1 transporter and varying extents of bioavailability and half-lives. While suppression of glucose uptake has been attributed to their primary mode of antidiabetic action, SGLT2 inhibitors have demonstrated several mechanistic ways to combat cancer, including mitochondrial membrane instability, suppression of β-catenin, and PI3K-Akt pathways, increase in cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, and downregulation of oxidative phosphorylation. Growing evidence and ongoing clinical trials suggest a potential benefit of combination therapy using an SGLT2 inhibitor with the standard chemotherapeutic regimen. Nevertheless, further experimental and clinical evidence is required to characterize the expression and role of SGLTs in different cancer types, the activity of different SGLT subtypes, and their role in tumor development and progression.

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