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Originally published September 28 2009

Diabetes Drug Could Cause Pancreatic Cancer

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The popular diabetes drug sitagliptin (marketed as Januvia) may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to study conducted by researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles and published in the journal Diabetes.

"Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease -- people often take the same drugs for many years, so any adverse effect that could over time increase the risk for pancreatic cancer would be a concern," said lead researcher Peter Butler. "A concern here is that the unwanted effects of this drug on the pancreas would likely not be detected in humans unless the pancreas was removed and examined."

Previous research has suggested that the diabetes drug Byetta might increase the risk of pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis), a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Byetta and Januvia both act by enhancing the activity of a gut hormone known as glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1), thereby resulting in lower blood sugar.

Byetta manufacturer Amylin Corp. has insisted that the connection between Byetta and pancreatitis could be coincidence, since no mechanism to explain the correlation has yet been found. The new study suggests, however, that enhanced GLP-1 activity might itself be a risk factor for pancreatitis.

Researchers conducted the study on rats that had been genetically engineered to simulate the metabolism of humans with Type 2 diabetes, as well as their Islets of Langerhans. They treated 40 rats with either Januvia or a Januvia-metformin combination for 12 weeks.

The Islets of Langerhans are hormone-producing regions of the pancreas. Metformin is an older diabetes drug that is believed to have tumor-suppressing properties.

The researchers found that rats treated only with Januvia had significantly higher proliferation of beta cells in their Islets of Langerhans, while some developed pancreatic abnormalities or inflammation. Rats treated with both drugs did not exhibit this effect.

Beta cells produce the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

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