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Diabetes Drugs Like Januvia May Help Cancer Spread

Diabetes Drugs Like Januvia May Help Cancer Spread

April 28, 2016 — Diabetes drug like Januvia contain antioxidants that may protect cancer cells and accelerate metastasis of pre-existing cancer, according to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Antioxidants protect healthy cells from damage by “free radicals” in the body that can cause cancer. However, in people with pre-existing cancer, antioxidants may have the opposite effect — protecting cancer cells from damage as they spread through the body.

The authors of the study said DPP-4 inhibitors do not appear to cause cancer. However, the drugs did accelerate the spread of pre-existing colon and lung cancer in mice. The risk in humans is unknown, but researchers told TIME that the drugs “may need to be administered with caution in diabetic patients with existing cancer.”

This is not the first time antioxidants have been shown to “turbo-charge” cancer metastasis. Last year, Nature published a study in which normal doses of antioxidants like Vitamin E and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) accelerated the metastasis of human skin cancer (melanoma) in mice.

Another study published by Science Translational Medicine found that antioxidants in mice with lung cancer tripled the number of tumors and caused aggressive metastasis. As a result, mice on antioxidants died twice as quickly.

DPP-4 inhibitors have been associated with a possible risk of pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer. In March 2013, the FDA investigated reports linking Januvia with pre-cancerous pancreatic growths. The agency also asked drug-makers to “explore a potential signal of a serious risk of thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer” from Byetta.

DPP-4 inhibitor diabetes drugs include:

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