Pancreatic cancer, as the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths, carries a poor prognosis with a median survival of 6 months and a dismal 5-year survival rate of 3% to 5%. These statistics highlight an urgent need for novel chemopreventive and therapeutic strategies for this malignancy. Metformin and aspirin have been explored as two emerging cancer chemoprevention agents for different types of cancers, including pancreatic cancer. Here, we review the effects of both metformin and aspirin on pancreatic tumorigenesis and their potential actions in pancreatic cancer. Special attention is paid to their effects on the important signaling pathways of pancreatic cancer development as well as possible mechanisms for synergy between these two agents. For metformin, the most important mechanism may involve the inhibition of mTOR signaling via AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-dependent and -independent pathways. For aspirin, the major mechanism is the anti-inflammatory action through the inhibition of COX-1/COX-2 and modulation of the NFκB or STAT3 pathway. In addition, aspirin may activate AMPK, and both agents may affect Notch, Wnt/β-catenin, and other signaling pathways. The combination of metformin and aspirin will provide additive and possibly synergistic effects for the prevention and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
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