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Certain class of diabetes drugs may reduce colorectal cancer risk

Image credit – Medpage Today

CANCER DIGEST – Dec. 9, 2023 – People who take type 2 diabetes drugs such as Trulicity®, Victoza®, Ozempic®, or Rybelsus® may have a lower risk of colorectal cancer, according to a new study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

The study, based on data from a national database, analyzed the records of 1.2 million people treated with anti-diabetic drugs from 2005-2019. It was published Dec. 7, 2023 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

While all the drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes lowered the risk of colorectal cancer, the newer class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide 1 agonists (GLP-1 agonists) that reduce glucose in the blood, were more effective in reducing cancer risk.

Led by Nathan Berger, MD and Ring Xu, PhD, at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, the researchers analyzed the health records of people treated with GLP-1 agonists as well as earlier diabetic drugs such as insulin and Metformin. 

The patients were matched for sex, age, race, socio-economic factors and categorized by medication. They found that among 22,572 patients treated with insulin there were 167 cases of colorectal cancer. during the 15 years covered by the study.

Among 22,572 patients treated with GLP-1 agonists there were 94 cases of colorectal cancer, a 44% decrease compared to the insulin-treated group.

In 18,518 patients treated with metformin, there were 25% fewer cases of colorectal cancer compared to the insulin group.

Because this is a population study, it can’t be said the drugs caused the reduced cancers. As such the researchers said the findings suggest the need for clinical trials to see if GLP-1 drugs might prevent colorectal cancer.

“Our results clearly demonstrate that GLP-1 RAs are significantly more effective than popular anti-diabetic drugs, such as Metformin or insulin, at preventing the development of CRC,” Berger said in a press release.

Source: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine press release.

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