LOS ANGELES, May 1 (UPI) -- A drug used to treat type 2 diabetes may have unintended effects on the pancreas that could increase pancreatic cancer risk, U.S. researchers said.
The study -- using rats as subjects and published in the online edition of the journal Diabetes -- found that the drug sitagliptin, sold in pill form as Januvia, caused abnormalities in the pancreas that are recognized as risk factors for pancreatitis and, with time, pancreatic cancer in humans.
Researchers at the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Januvia is a member of a new class of drugs that enhance the actions of the gut hormone known as glucagon-like peptide -- 1 (GLP-1) -- which has been shown to be effective in lowering blood sugar in people with type 2 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," lead investigator Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Hillblom Center, said in a statement. "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."
The statement noted that the study "was undertaken in rats and that it is possible the adverse effects observed would not occur in humans."