GLP-1 therapy: Cancer-killing benefits of popular obesity treatment
Maynooth University | 05-09-2023
Maynooth University’s Kathleen Londsdale Institute for Human Health Research has just published ground-breaking research into the benefits of the popular obesity treatment drug, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1).
Previous research has found that people with obesity are at a greater risk of developing cancer, in part due to their anticancer immune cell — better known as the ‘Natural Killer (NK)’ cell — being rendered useless due to their disease.
New Health Research Board (HRB) funded research carried out by Dr. Andrew Hogan and his team in the Londsdale Health Institute at Maynooth University, has found that the popular, and gold-standard pharmacological treatment for obesity, GLP-1 analogs, can actually restore the NK cell function in the body including its ability to kill cancerous cells.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 13 percent of the global adult population suffers from obesity; a disease linked with a higher cancer risk. These cancers comprise 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States annually.
The research, published in Obesity, the Obesity Society’s Research Journal, one of the world’s leading peer-reviewed obesity journals, also shows that the restored cancer-killing effect of NK cells is independent of the GLP-1’s main weight loss function so it appears the treatment is directly kick-starting the NK cells’ engine.
Dr. Andrew E. Hogan, Associate Professor & Principal Investigator, Lonsdale Human Health Institute in Maynooth University discussed the findings: “My team and I are very excited by these new findings in relation to the effects of the GLP-1 treatment on people with obesity and it appears to result in real tangible benefits for those currently on the drug.”
“While these findings will understandably be welcomed by those living with obesity and looking for safe and effective treatments, given the recent spike in popularity related to the benefits of the GLP-1 treatment with global and high-profile celebrities commenting on its success, global demand has increased and resulted in a worldwide shortage of the drug.”
“I hope this is something that is brought under control to ensure as many people as possible living with obesity can start their own treatment of this beneficial drug.”
Conor de Barra, PhD student in immunology at Maynooth University and Irish Research Council Scholar, who led the work in Dr. Hogan’s lab said: “People with obesity can develop a variety of health problems like type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and cancer. These can have very negative impacts on their quality of life. This research and other promising findings on improvements in cardiovascular health after GLP-1 therapy indicate its potential benefits in addition to weight loss.”
Prof Donal O’Shea, HSE National Lead for Obesity & Principal Investigator, said: “We are finally reaching the point where medical treatments for the disease of obesity are being shown to prevent the complications of having obesity. The current findings represent very positive news for people living with obesity on GLP-1 therapy and suggest the benefits of this family of treatments may extend to a reduction in cancer risk.”
Dr. Hogan will present these findings at the 30th European Congress on Obesity, which will be held in Dublin on 20th of May.
Materials provided by Maynooth University. Content may be edited for clarity, style, and length.