Popular diabetes drug could treat ovarian cancer

A common drug prescribed for diabetes may also have cancer-fighting power, according to a recent study published in the journal Cancer.

Specifically, research found that the progression of ovarian cancer may be slowed down by metformin, a diabetes drug with the brand name Glucophage.

A 10-year study

Scientists studied medical records from 239 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer between 1995 and 2010. Of those women, 178 patients were not taking metformin at the time of their diagnoses, while 61 patients were taking the drug.

Women who were taking metformin were found to be about 3.7 times more likely to survive during the 10-year study period. Sixty-seven percent of patients taking the drug did not die within five years of being diagnosed with cancer, while only 47 percent of the patients not taking the drug survived the five years after diagnosis.

Study variables

Scientists also took into account variables such as the severity of each patient's cancer, their chemotherapy regimen and their body mass index.

"Even after controlling for all of those factors, there still showed a benefit for metformin," said Dr. Pamela Soliman, an associate professor in the department of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The authors of the study note that the findings are indeed positive, but more research needs to be done before metformin is recommended to cancer patients.

"We don't have sufficient evidence that patients with ovarian cancer should be on metformin. This is a study that forms a hypothesis, but patients should wait until large-scale randomized trials are conducted," said Dr. Sanjeev Kumar of the Mayo Clinic.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually.

Source: US News Health

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