Diabetes Drug Battles Ovarian Cancer?

Metformin associated with increased survival for diabetic ovarian cancer patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) How exactly a diabetes drug helps ovarian cancer patients is still unknown, but the success rate is very encouraging. Further studies are needed to see if metformin should be made part of standard treatment.

A recent study followed ovarian cancer patients for 5 years. Women who were also taking the diabetes drug metformin had improved survival rates. Metformin is a commonly used diabetes drug used to temper the liver’s production of glucose.

"Talk to your oncologist about treatment options."

Viji Shridhar, PhD, from the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Experimental Pathology, and Sanjeev Kumar, MBBS, from the Department of Gynecologic Surgery, at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Minnesota, led a team in the investigation.

“Our study demonstrated improved survival in women with ovarian cancer that were taking metformin,” said Dr. Kumar.

For the study, 239 ovarian cancer patients (61 taking metformin for diabetes, 178 not taking metformin) were followed for 5 years. After 5 years, 67 percent of patients taking metformin were still alive, while only 47 percent of patients not taking metformin were still alive.

With all factors considered, age, weight, cancer treatment and stage of cancer, patients taking metformin showed greater likelihood of living at least 5 more years compared to patients not taking metformin.

Dr. Kumar said, “The results are encouraging, but as with any retrospective study, many factors cannot be controlled for us to say if there is a direct cause and effect.”

“Rather, this is further human evidence for a potential beneficial effect of a commonly used drug which is relatively safe in humans.”

These study findings were positive enough to warrant a large-scale study to test the use of metformin in ovarian cancer patients. This study was published in December in Cancer. Funding support was provided by the Fred C. and Katherine B. Anderson Foundation and grants from the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
December 4, 2012
Last Updated:
December 7, 2012