The scientists told a conference of the American College of Chest Physicians that patients who had taken the drugs to manage diabetes were much less likely to experience the spread of lung cancer spread – which is when it becomes most deadly.
Metformin, an older and less expensive medication available generically, had a more highly effective effect as compared to more recent drugs known as thiazolidinediones, TZDs or glitazones, the scientists said.
“Our study, as well as other research, suggests an association between metformin and/or TZD use and the risk of developing lung cancer,” said Dr. Peter Mazzone of the Cleveland Medical center in Ohio, who led the study.
“However, unique to this study, we have been able to report less advanced cancer in those who do develop cancer, a decreased frequency of squamous cell and small cell carcinomas, and improved survival, when controlled for stage, in people taking metformin and/or TZDs.”
The team analyzed the medical information of 157 lung cancer survivors with diabetes.
Those who had taken either a metformin medication or a TZD were less likely to have advanced lung cancer that had spread – 20 % of those who took the drugs who had cancers that had spread, with comparison to 42 % of those who had not.
Mazzone said “The initial trend we have seen is toward metformin being more protective than TZDs”.
TZDs include GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia, known generically as rosiglitazone, and competing medication Actos, or pioglitazone, made by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
Mazzone said that it may be possible one day to use metformin to avoid lung cancer among the smokers and tobacco users.
But Dr. David Gutterman, president of the American College of Chest Physicians, said more analysis would be needed before this could be suggested.
“This new information adds to the growing body of evidence that metformin may help prevent and inhibit the progression of lung cancer,” Gutterman said.
Metformin is one of the normally used drugs for type two diabetes, with 41 million prescriptions written in the U.S. in 2008, the American College of Chest Physicians said in a statement.
In May, scientists revealed that an inhaled medication known as iloprost, accepted to cure pulmonary hypertension might also avoid lung cancer.
In April, the researchers said a natural complement resulting from food, known as myo-inositol, seems to stop the precancerous changes that lead to lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer worldwide, killing 1.2 million individuals a year. Only 15 % of individuals clinically identified as having lung cancer are still in existence 5 years later, in part because the disease usually spreads quietly for years before it causes clear enough symptoms to be recognized.
Early level lung tumors can often be eliminated surgically, however.
The World Health Organization reports 171 million individuals worldwide had diabetes in 2000 and forecast that the number will nearly double itself by 2030 to 366 million.
Article Source: reuters.com