Drugs in a class of Type 2 diabetes medications known as DPP-4 inhibitors may not increase the short-term risk of pancreatic cancer, but the long-term risks are still unknown, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
The study was conducted by researchers with the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of medicine, and focused on pancreatic cancer risks with DPP-4 inhibitors such as Januvia and Janumet (sitagliptin), and Tradjenta (linagliptin).
DPP-4 inhibitors were first marketed in the United States in 2006 and have since become among the most prescribed treatment for type 2 diabetes. At the time, DPP-4 inhibitors were thought to be safer than widely prescribed type 2 diabetes drugs that included Avandia, which had been linked to fatal heart attacks, and Actos, which increases the risk for bladder cancer.
However, in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that it had received reports of acute pancreatitis in patients using DPP-4 inhibitors. Pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas. It can lead to pancreatic cancer.
Soon after the FDA issued its warning, studies involving analysis of FDA adverse event reports and autopsy studies found that patients who used DPP-4 inhibitors were at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
The UNC researchers used a more advanced study design to investigate the short-term pancreatic cancer risks with DPP-4 drugs and found little evidence that the drugs increased the risk in the first or second year. However, longer treatment periods were not studied, nor did the team determine long-term risks because not enough people have taken the newer drugs long-term.
Another class of type 2 diabetes drugs, known as GLP-1 agonists, also have been linked to acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. These drugs include Byetta (exenatide) and Victoza (liraglutide).
Source: Health Canal