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Diabetes Drug May Not Guard Against Pancreatic Cancer

Survival not significantly different from patients who didn't take metformin, study finds

TUESDAY, April 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Despite evidence that has suggested the diabetes drug metformin might have potential as a cancer fighter, a new study finds the medication didn't help patients with a type of pancreatic cancer.

Patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma who took the drug didn't gain any survival benefit from the medication, Mayo Clinic researchers said.

Why look at the drug in the first place?

"The diabetes drug metformin is being used in some cancer treatment trials based on epidemiologic studies that have reported that use of metformin reduces the risk of death from cancer," said study author Dr. Roongruedee Chaiteerakij in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. She is from the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minn.

In the new study, researchers examined the medical records of 1,360 patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, some of whom took metformin. The median number of survival days for those who didn't take the drug was 308 days, compared to 292 days for those who did.

The study was "retrospective," meaning it looked backward in time at what happened to patients instead of following them into the future.

"Studies of medication exposure and cancer survival warrant very careful and detailed data collection, which is not always possible in a retrospective study design," Chaiteerakij said. "Researchers should exercise caution when initiating clinical trials based on retrospective epidemiologic studies."

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Philadelphia. Research released at conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more about pancreatic cancer, try the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, April 21, 2015
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