Diabetes Drug Helps Treat Cancer
December 3, 2012

Common Diabetes Medication Helps Treat Ovarian Cancer

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A common diabetes medication could help in preventing or treating ovarian cancer, according to research published in the journal CANCER.

The study found that ovarian cancer patients who took the drug tended to live longer than those patients who did not take it.

Previous research showed that metformin, which originated from the French Lilac plant, might have anticancer properties. In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from 61 patients with ovarian cancer who took metformin and 178 patients who did not.

They found that 67 percent of those who took metformin had not died from ovarian cancer within five years, compared with 47 percent of those who did not take the medication.

After the team accounted for factors like cancer severity and patients' body mass index, they found that patients taking metformin were 3.7 times more likely to survive throughout the study than those not taking it.

"Our study demonstrated improved survival in women with ovarian cancer that were taking metformin," co-author Sanjeev Kumar, M.B.B.S., a Mayo Clinic gynecologic oncology colleague, said in a statement. "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."

The latest findings help show a correlation between metformin intake and better survival. Additional studies can be done to determine whether the observations in the current study have a true benefit for patients with ovarian cancer.

"Rather, this is further human evidence for a potential beneficial effect of a commonly used drug which is relatively safe in humans. These findings should provide impetus for prospective clinical trials in ovarian cancer," Kumar said.

"This study opens the door for using metformin in large-scale randomized trials in ovarian cancer which can ultimately lead to metformin being one option for treatment of patients with the disease," Viji Shridhar, also of Mayo Clinic, said in a statement.

Kumar said that the team believes ovarian cancer research needs to follow the examples of trials that are currently underway for breast cancer.

The researchers said that given the high mortality rate, there is a great need to develop new therapies for ovarian cancer.