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Metformin May Lower Diabetics' Odds for Pancreatic Cancer
Date:8/2/2009

hen detected early, the five-year survival from the disease is about 33 percent.

The current finding is based on an analysis of 973 pancreatic cancer patients (259 of whom were diabetic) and 863 non-cancer patients (109 of whom were diabetic), all of whom received care at M.D. Anderson between 2004 and 2008.

The researchers found that diabetics who had ever taken metformin as a treatment for their condition cut their risk for pancreatic cancer by 60 percent, compared to those who had never taken the drug. The risk reduction was particularly apparent among diabetics who had taken metformin for five years or more, they noted.

Being a smoker, overweight or obese, or having glycemic control issues did not appear to impact the protective relationship between metformin and pancreatic cancer risk, Li and her team observed.

On the other hand, the researchers found that diabetic patients who had taken insulin as a treatment were nearly five times more prone to developing pancreatic cancer than patients who had never taken insulin. Similarly, those who took insulin secretagogues (insulin-releasing drugs such as sulfonylureas or glinides) had more than double the risk of pancreatic cancer than those who had not.

"Because the individuals we looked at who used metformin were comparable in most ways with those who did not, we have confidence in terms of the influential role metformin specifically had on reducing pancreatic risk," Li noted. "And because there is already a general recommendation to use this drug, our finding adds even more of an incentive. Because this drug appears to have a tremendous health impact, and because we have so few tools to use to fight against pancreatic cancer at this point," she added.

"Of course our observation needs to be confirmed with further research with other patient pools," she cautioned. "But hopefully while we're doing that we can find some biomarker to identify higher risk for pan
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