Metformin Might Improve Colorectal Cancer Survival

by U.S. Medicine

December 5, 2016

BOSTON—Recent clinical studies have suggested that the common diabetes drug metformin holds promise in improving colorectal cancer survival, but the small number of patients and inconsistencies related to diabetic severity have limited the significance of that research.

To remedy that, a new study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention examined the association between metformin use and overall survival (OS) in patients with diabetes and colorectal cancer. The research, led by Tufts Medical Center and the Durham, NC, VAMC, focused on a large population of U.S. veterans and adjusted for measures of diabetic severity.1

For the trial, patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer from January 2001 to December 2008 were identified from the VA Central Cancer Registry.

Overall, 21,352 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer were identified, including the following numbers:

  • 16,355 nondiabetic patients,
  • 2,038 diabetic patients on metformin,
  • 2,136 diabetic patients on medications other than metformin, and
  • 823 diabetic patients not on antidiabetic medication.

Results indicated that diabetic patients had a significantly worse OS than nondiabetic patients, but metformin users had only a 10% increase in death, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.10, as compared with 22% for users of other antidiabetic medications, with an adjusted HR of 1.22.

Among colorectal cancer patients with diabetes, meanwhile, metformin users had a 13% improved OS versus patients taking other antidiabetic medications—adjusted HR of 0.87—while diabetic patients not on any antidiabetic medications did not differ with respect to OS.

“Among diabetics with colorectal cancer, metformin use is associated with improved survival, despite adjustments for diabetes severity and other risk factors,” the study authors concluded, adding that their data lends “further support to the conduct of randomized studies of possible anticancer effects of metformin among patients with colorectal cancer.”

1.    1 Paulus JK, Williams CD, Cossor FI, Kelley MJ, Martell RE. Metformin, Diabetes, and Survival among U.S. Veterans with Colorectal Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016 Oct;25(10):1418-1425. PubMed PMID: 27496094; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5050110.

Related Articles

Two-Thirds of VAMCs Improved Quality, Efficiency in Recent Assessment

More than half of 15 VAMCs classified as “high risk” in the October 2017 Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning report moved out of that category in the most recent update. But one, the DCVAMC in Washington declined and is now considered “critical.”

Legislators Question Governance of VA EHR Implementation

How much will implementation and integration of a new electronic health record slow down processes at the VA, which already struggles with delays in care?

U.S. Medicine Recommends

More From department of veterans affairs

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VHA Makes Progress in Improving Safety of Opioid Prescribing

VHA medical facilities should ensure that its providers are following three key opioid risk mitigation strategies, including conducting urine drug screening, a recent report recommended.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA faces healthcare staffing shortages, barriers to hiring facility leaders

A facility-specific survey found that 138 of 140 VA facilities reported shortages of medical officers, with psychiatry and primary care positions being the most frequently listed.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veteran nephrologist labors to improve ESRD treatment at VA

When Terrence O’Neil, MD, retired as chief of nephrology at the James H. Quillen VAMC in Johnson City in December 2016, he left in his wake decades of work treating kidney disease—nearly 35 years in the Air Force and DoD, plus 11 more at VA.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Committee approves bill to provide agent orange benefits to ‘blue water’ vets

A long sought-after bill that would make it easier for Blue Water Navy veterans to receive Agent Orange benefits has been passed by a key House of Representatives committee.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Bill to Streamline, Expand VA’s Choice Program Signed Into Law

Legislation that would streamline VA’s community care programs into one program and expand VA’s caregiver program to veterans of all eras was signed into law earlier this month..

Facebook Comment

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up