Each year millions of men and women are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Once diagnosed, doctors often construct personalized treatment plans that include dietary changes and exercise, in addition to drug treatments designed to keep blood sugar levels in check.
Until the early 2000’s the majority of Type 2 Diabetes patients were limited to Insulin treatments. Then came Victoza, a drug derived from the metabolic hormone Incretin. This new type of diabetes drug worked to lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin release while inhibiting glucagon release. The FDA seemed happy to have another treatment option for the American diabetes epidemic, as they approved Victoza for general use in 2010. However, it wasn’t long until doctors began to notice a disturbing trend; patients prescribed to Victoza were developing Pancreatic Cancer.
What Is Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic Cancer is known as a “silent killer” amongst healthcare professionals. This is because the disease is often extremely hard to diagnose in early stages due to a lack of distinct symptoms. Each year close to 50,000 men and women are diagnosed with this type of cancer. Pancreatic Cancer usually presents in men and women over the age of 45. There are two general classifications of Pancreatic Cancer, that each contains numerous sub-classifications:
- Exocrine – The part of the pancreas that makes digestive substances
- Endocrine – The part of the pancreas that insulin and hormones
Scientists do not currently know exactly what causes these pancreatic cancers, but there are several noted risk factors in developing the disease including taking certain types of diabetes medications including Victoza.
Victoza And The FDA
In March 2013, the FDA communicated it would be investigating an increased risk of pancreatitis and precancerous cell changes in patients taking incretin mimetics– a class of diabetes drugs containing Victoza. This warning comes after a number of studies have pointed to a link between the drug and the often fatal disease.
Victoza’s Link To Pancreatic Cancer
Type 2 Diabetes can affect the body’s ability to produce incretins, which are natural hormones that stimulate the release of insulin during and after a meal. Victoza belongs to a class of drugs known as incretin mimetics. These drugs emulate naturally occurring hormones while being resistant to metabolization by harmful enzymes.
In doing this, Victoza stimulates one of the body’s receptors that are responsible for glucose level (blood sugar) management. Doctors speculate it is the overactivity of this specific receptor that may cause the development of Pancreatic Cancer in people taking Victoza.