Gene breakthrough in diabetes study

Scientists have identified a gene which plays a role in how a commonly used diabetes drug works - creating a new area for drug development in the future.
Metformin is a drug taken by millions of people with diabetes across the globe and has been in use for more than 50 years.
It has been shown to protect against heart disease and eye and kidney disease in people with Type 2 diabetes and has also been shown to have benefits against cancer. But scientists have not known exactly how metformin works.
New research carried out at the University of Dundee, Oxford University and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute as part of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium shed light on how the body works with and makes use of metformin.
Dr Ewan Pearson, Professor Colin Palmer and colleagues based in the Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Dundee used data from a clinical information system of patients with diabetes linked to donated blood samples from 20,000 people in the Tayside area of Scotland in the research.
They were able to determine how well metformin worked in 2,800 people and identified an area of chromosome 11, which includes a gene called ATM (Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated), that altered how well people responded to metformin.
ATM is a gene that is known to be involved in the DNA damage response system of cells, a mechanism that if faulty can lead to the development of cancer, Dr Pearson said.
"We were expecting to find genes involved in blood sugar regulation so the finding that ATM is involved in metformin response was totally unexpected. Although ATM has been widely studied by cancer scientists, no one previously thought it had a role in how this commonly used diabetes drug worked."
Prof Palmer said: "This is an important development in defining how individuals may respond differently to diabetes drugs, but further work is required before we have enough information to be able to reliably use genetic testing in the clinic to guide treatment of common forms of Type 2 diabetes."
The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Diabetes UK and is published in the journal Nature Genetics. Diabetes UK has now awarded Dr Pearson further funding to continue his research using new genetic techniques on 8,000 people with Type 2 diabetes.

Study finds evidence of increased lung cancer risk among tuberculosis patients

Although a clear association of tuberculosis with lung cancer remains to be established, a new study published in the January issue of theJournal of Thoracic Oncology provides compelling evidence of increased lung cancer risk among people with tuberculosis.
Researchers at China Medical University and Hospital in Taiwan randomly selected 1 million patients covered under the country’s National Health Insurance (NHI) program. All patients aged 20 years and older with a new diagnosis of tuberculosis between 1998 and 2000 were identified as the exposed cohort and all people without tuberculosis history were the non-exposed cohort. Patients with any cancer diagnosis were excluded to ensure that all participants were cancer-free at the start of both cohorts. Overall, 716,872 adults were eligible for the analysis – 4,480 in the tuberculosis cohort and 712,392 in the non-tuberculosis cohort.
Both groups were followed from 2001 through 2007. Results showed that patients with tuberculosis were 10.9 times more likely than non-tuberculosis patients to develop lung cancer (26.3 versus 2.41 per 10,000 person-years). Mortality was also much higher in the patients with tuberculosis than in the non-tuberculosis patients (51.1 versus 8.2 per 10,000 person-years).
“Tuberculosis is a very common chronic disease worldwide; people in the developing and undeveloped areas suffer with it mostly,” said Dr. Chih-Yi Chen, one of the researchers. “It is well known that lung cancer is causally associated with smoking. Less attention has been focused on whether people with tuberculosis are also at higher risk of developing lung cancer. With the universal health insurance claims data of Taiwan, we identified 4,480 patients with tuberculosis from a group of 716,872 people and followed them for eight years or longer. The incidence of lung cancer in these tuberculosis patients was 11 times greater than people without tuberculosis. The risk of lung cancer may increase further to almost 16 times greater if patients with tuberculosis also suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This study suggests that it is also important to watch out for lung cancer prevention in the campaign against tuberculosis.”
The research was supported by the National Science Council, Executive Yuan, Taiwan; the Department of Health Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence; China Medical University Hospital; and Taiwan Department of Health, China Medical University Hospital Cancer Research of Excellence.
About the Journal of Thoracic Oncology:
The Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO) is the official monthly journal of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). It is a prized resource for medical specialists and scientists who focus on the detection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. It emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach, including original research (clinical trials and translational or basic research), reviews and opinion pieces.
To find out more about the JTO please visit To learn more about the IASLC please visit