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Common Diabetes Drug May Help Treat Ovarian Cancer


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A new study suggests that the common diabetes medication metformin may be considered for use in the prevention or treatment of ovarian cancer. Published in CANCER, a journal of the American Cancer Society, the study found that women with ovarian cancer who took the drug tended to live longer than those who did not take it.

Previous research has indicated that metformin, which originates from the French lilac plant, may have anticancer properties. To look for an effect of the medication in ovarian cancer, Viji Shridhar, PhD, Sanjeev Kumar, MD, both of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and their colleagues analyzed information from 61 women with ovarian cancer who took metformin and 178 women who did not.

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

Sixty-seven 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 accounting for factors such as cancer severity and individuals’ body mass index, the investigators found that women taking metformin were more than three times more likely to survive throughout the study than those not taking it.

The findings demonstrate only a correlation between taking metformin and better survival. Additional studies are needed to decipher whether the observations made in this study represent a true beneficial effect of metformin in women with ovarian cancer.

“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,” says Dr. Shridhar.

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This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2013.