The drug metformin is used to fight diabetes -- but it could be used to fight something far more deadly.

A new study has found that Metformin, a drug commonly used in the treatment of diabetes, may reduce the risk of dying from some cancers — a huge breakthrough that could provide the medical community with a new tool to battle cancer.

Scientists made the discovery while examining postmenopausal women who have type 2 diabetes, according to a HealthDay News report.

The findings were based on data from 145,826 postmenopausal women who were between the ages of 50 and 79, and the data comes from between 1993 and 1998 for a Women’s Health Initiative study, according to the report.

Postmenopausal women with diabetes were about 25 to 35 percent more likely to develop certain types of cancers like colon and endometrial cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the risk was double for liver and pancreatic cancers.

However, the study had extremely hopeful news: women with cancer who took metformin for type 2 diabetes saw a reduced risk overall of dying from cancer.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital noticed this link as well.

“We found that metformin alleviates desmoplasia – an accumulation of dense connective tissue and tumor-associated immune cells that is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer – by inhibiting the activation of the pancreatic stellate cells that produce the extracellular matrix and by reprogramming immune cells to reduce inflammation,” Dai Fukumura, MD, PhD, of the Steele Laboratory of Tumor Biology in the MGH Department of Radiation Oncology, the study’s co-senior author, said in a recent statement. “We also found these effects only evident in tumors from overweight or obese individuals, who appear to have tumors with increased fibrosis.”

Added co-senior author Rakesh K. Jain, PhD, director of the Steele Laboratory: “Nearly 200 clinical trials are currently underway investigating the effect of metformin on tumors in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients. Understanding the mechanism behind metformin’s effects on pancreatic and other cancers may help us identify biomarkers – such as patient body weight and increased tumor fibrosis – that can identify the patients for whom metformin treatment would be most beneficial.”