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Diabetes drug may prevent cancer

Sep. 14, 2018, 9:15 AM

by Meredith Jackson

A drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes might help prevent patients from developing liver cancers.

In a study published this month in the journal Cancer Causes & Control, Harvey J. Murff, MD, MPH, and colleagues found that patients taking metformin had a reduced rate of liver cancer compared to patients taking an alternative anti-diabetes drug.

While other previous studies have found associations between metformin and decreased risk of several cancer types, most of them have been impacted by biases related to differences in treatment time between cases and controls, as well as confounding factors such as body mass index and glycemic control.

The authors carefully controlled for these factors in a study of patients with diabetes included in national Veterans Health Administration databases. They found no association between metformin use and the incidence of 10 solid tumor types — other than liver cancer.

Their work suggests that metformin should be further studied clinically for the prevention of liver cancer.

This research was supported in part by a contract from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness (DEcIDE) program. Additional support was from the National Institutes of Health (grants DK090874, CA143288, CA160938, DK092986, AG043471) and from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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