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Experts cautious over link between insulin, cancer risk PDF Stampa E-mail
Giovedì 01 Ottobre 2009 07:27

A review of clinical studies presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting was not able to provide a definitive answer to questions over the safety of sanofi-aventis’ insulin product Lantus (insulin glargine). Researchers said that more work is needed to understand whether the use of Lantus leads to an increased risk of cancer.


The president of the EASD, Ulf Smith, noted that “no-one has ever suggested that glargine, or any other form of insulin, causes cancer,” adding that it “is the potential that already existing cancers, small cancers, can grow faster” that is of concern. “I’m not changing my clinical practice because we’re not at that stage yet, but I’m certainly aware of the potentially negative effect,” said Smith, who remarked that “we need to understand more.”


Experts also welcomed sanofi-aventis’ announcement earlier this week that it will initiate a research plan to examine the safety of insulin, including insulin analogues such as Lantus. Riccardo Perfetti, senior medical director of the company’s metabolism unit, said that an internal analysis of studies on Lantus, involving more than 10 000 patients, found no increased risk of cancer, but he added that “we need to address this specifically” with trials led by independent researchers.


In related news, an analysis of 21 randomised studies from Novo Nordisk found that patients who received the company's Levemir (insulin detemir) had a statistically significant decrease in the rate of cancer compared to those receiving traditional human insulin. Studies that compared Levemir and Lantus had too few tumours to observe any difference.

di Matthew Dennis