BETHESDA, MD—Past research has raised the possibility that a common blood sugar-lowering drug could be associated with improved survival in cancer patients with Type 2 diabetes.

A study published recently in the International Journal of Cancer assessed whether metformin use is associated with overall survival among Type 2 diabetic patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the MHS.1

Data from the linked database of the DoD’s Central Cancer Registry (CCR) and the MHS Data Repository (MDR) were employed for the study led by researchers from the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

Included were 636 patients with diabetes who also had histologically confirmed NSCLC diagnosed between 2002 and 2007. During the median follow-up time of 14.6 months, 411 of the patients died.

Results indicated that increased postdiagnosis cumulative use (per one year of use) of metformin conferred a significant reduction in mortality, for an adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 0.76. Upon further analysis by duration of use, researchers determined that, compared to nonusers, the lowest risk reduction occurred among patients with the longest duration of use—i.e., use for more than two years—for an HR of 0.19.

In addition, the study authors pointed out, reduced mortality was particularly observed only among patients who also used metformin before lung cancer diagnosis and among patients at early Stage of diagnosis.

“Prolonged duration of metformin use in the study population was associated with improved survival, especially among early Stage patients,” the study team concluded. “Future research with a larger number of patients is warranted.”

1 Lin J, Gill A, Zahm SH, Carter CA, Shriver CD, et. al. Metformin use and survival after non-small cell lung cancer: A cohort study in the US Military health system. Int J Cancer. 2017 Jul 15;141(2):254-263. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30724. Epub 2017 May 4. PubMed PMID: 28380674.