Diabetes Drug Metformin Could Cut Cancer Risk, Other Findings ‘Surprising’
Popular diabetes drug metformin is at the center of a new study that researchers say presents “interesting and informative” but “not definitive” data about medications used to treat the condition and their potential effects on the likelihood of developing certain cancers.
The result observed by Swiss and American researchers in a study of nearly 2,800 patients was described as “somewhat unexpected,” and the findings were published in the January 31st web edition of The American Journal of Gastroenterology. While of use of diabetes medications known as sulfonylureas in the long-term were linked with an increase in pancreatic cancer cases that was considered “substantial,” and long-term insulin use in men was associated with the same risks, long-term use of metformin in women actually seemed to reduce the risk of patients developing pancreatic cancer.
Data collected from the nearly 2,800 patients first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 1995 and 2009 was compared with that of more than 16,000 patients who were not diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and age, demographic information such as prevalence of smoking, alcohol use and body mass index was also included in the study. Dr. Michael Choti is a professor of surgery and oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and Choti commented on the study:
“Over the years, many groups have tried to look at a variety of risk factors, dietary and other things, and there have been some reports over the years. But nothing has really panned out well. So this is indeed an interesting study… But it’s also important to say that while these could be associations, we cannot really say that what we have here is a cause-and-effect.”
“Pancreatic cancer is a multi-factorial disease. So, while it makes sense conceptually that these drugs could have an impact on the pancreas, which is a metabolic organ, it’s still too early to be sure what’s happening. And it’s too early to recommend metformin as a preventive therapy for pancreatic cancer. So this is interesting and important, but it’s not definitive.”