Examination of Diabetes and Cholesterol Drugs in Pancreatic Cancer Mortality Shows Improved Survival with use of One more than the Other

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey investigators present findings at AACR Annual Meeting
April 3, 2017

Xiang-Lin Tan, MD, PhDNew Brunswick, N.J. – Research has shown that by themselves, the diabetes drug metformin and cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are associated with reduced cancer mortality, but little is known about the effect on pancreatic cancer mortality when these drugs are taken together. Investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and other collaborators examined Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Medicare data to further explore this approach and found that exposure to statins for these patients was significantly associated with reduced overall mortality. Results of the work are being presented as part of a poster session at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting being held this week in Washington, D.C.

Investigators analyzed SEER data from 12,572 elderly patients (median age 76 years) with primary pancreatic adenocarcinoma who were diagnosed between 2008 and 2012. Information on metformin and statin use was taken from Medicare Part D data. Of the participants analyzed, 91.7 percent died before the study ended with a median follow-up of 3.8 months.

Statin use was found to be significantly associated with an improved overall survival, and it was more pronounced in those patients who began to use statins after they were diagnosed. Metformin use was not significantly associated with overall survival neither in those who were taking the drug before they were diagnosed nor after. Additionally, no superior benefit was observed for participants who used both drugs at the same time, say the authors, who add that further prospective validation is needed to confirm these findings.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest U.S. population-based study to examine the differential and joint effects of metformin and statins on survival among pancreatic cancer patients. We found that exposure to statins, rather than metformin, is associated with an improved overall survival of pancreatic cancer patients. Although more research is need to confirm our findings, our data add to the evidence of recent publications on potential anti-cancer effects of statins, and highlight that drug exposure should be treated as a time-dependent variable to avoid the time-related bias in pharmacoepidemiological studies,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey population science researcher Xiang-Lin Tan, MD, PhD, who is the senior investigator of the work, an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and an assistant professor of epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health.

Other authors on the work include: Jian-Y E, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Shou-En Lu and Yong Lin, Rutgers School of Public Health; Judith M. Graber, Rutgers University; David Rotter, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Lanjing Zhang, University Medical Center of Princeton, Plainsboro; Gloria M. Petersen, Mayo Clinic, Rochester; Kitaw Demissie, Rutgers School of Public Health; and Grace Lu-Yao, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rutgers Cancer Institute is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention both at its flagship New Brunswick location and at its Newark campus at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital. Physician-scientists across Rutgers Cancer Institute also engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice that supports patients on both campuses. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 848-932-8013 or visit Follow us on Facebook at


Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







Donate Now








Proud member of
Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium



Rutgers Health