Metformin & Colorectal Cancer Outcomes

Key Information

Cancer type: 
Research Institution: 
Grant Amount: 
Start date: 
October 1, 2010
End date: 
September 30, 2013

Scientific Project Abstract

Every year over 2000 men and women in Ireland are diagnosed with colorectal (bowel) cancer (CRC); half of these patients are likely to die of the cancer within 5 years. The risk of CRC is considerably higher in people who have type II diabetes, which is becoming more and more common in Ireland. Diabetic patients with CRC are also more likely to die from CRC than non-diabetic patients. This may be because patients with type II diabetes have higher levels of insulin in their blood, a hormone that regulates sugar levels in the body but may also promote the growth of cancer cells. Many type II diabetes patients take a drug called ‘metformin’ which helps to reduce insulin levels. My research involves studying CRC patients who are taking this drug for their diabetes. I aim to see if the patients who took metformin had better CRC outcomes than patients who weren’t taking it. I do this by looking at anonymous information collected about CRC patients who were diagnosed between 2001 and 2006, which is linked to information about prescriptions they received. So far I have found that some patients taking metformin appear to have better survival and less severe CRC. I am now also studying aspirin, in a similar manner, to find out more about how taking aspirin may improve survival in CRC, as recently reported in other studies.

For the non-scientist

One-line description: 
Examining if taking diabetes treatments or aspirin can improve survival in colorectal cancer patients
What this project involves: 

The risk of colorectal cancer is considerably higher in people who are obese or have diabetes, which may be associated with increased levels of insulin, a hormone that regulates sugar levels in the body but may also promote the growth of cancer cells. The link between high insulin levels and cancer has led to the suggestion that diabetes treatments which reduce insulin levels may also be a treatment for certain cancers, including colorectal cancer. This project aims to examine patients with a diagnosis of colorectal cancer to determine if taking the anti-diabetes drug metformin can reduce the number of deaths caused by colorectal cancer. This project is also examining the drug aspirin to learn more about how this drug may reduce deaths from colorectal cancer.