The diabetes drug Metformin may help women with ovarian cancer live longer, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer. The study showed that women who had ovarian cancer who took Metformin for diabetes treatment had a 20 percent better survival rate from their cancer than women who did not take Metformin.
The study compared the survival of 61 patients with ovarian cancer who were also taking Metformin and 178 ovarian cancer patients who were not taking metformin. Sixty-seven percent of the patients who took Metformin were still surviving after five years compared to 47 percent of those who were not taking the diabetes drug.
After researchers took into account factors such as body mass index, severity of cancer, type of chemotherapy, and quality of surgery, they found that patients on Metformin were nearly four times more likely to survive than those not taking Metformin.
Metformin inhibits the production of glucose by the liver, but scientists speculate it may also have direct action on cancer cells, keeping them from growing. The drug is already being studied with several different cancers including cancers of the prostate, pancreas, colon and breast.
No other diabetes treatment offers the same cancer benefit. In fact, some type 2 diabetes drugs can put patients at greater risk for developing cancer. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that studies had linked Actos to bladder cancer, especially when the drug was used for a year or longer. The drug Victoza has also been tied to an increased risk for thyroid cancer.