Weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes can change cancer-related proteins

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A weight-loss intervention in people with type 2 diabetes has been shown to alter levels of cancer-related proteins, according to the results of a new University of Bristol-led study. The study, published in eBioMedicine, is the first to show that weight loss in people recently diagnosed with diabetes can alter levels of cancer-related chemicals circulating in the blood.

According to Diabetes UK, more than five million people in the UK live with diabetes, and by 2045 more than 600 million people worldwide may be affected. Weight loss is now a key intervention for the Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial (DIRECT), which found a dietary weight gain. Loss programs can put type 2 diabetes into remission.

Despite these positive developments, people with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing various types of cancer. Previous studies have shown that increased body weight changes the levels of circulating proteins with known links to cancer. Inspired by these findings, researchers from Bristol Medical School collaborated with colleagues from the Universities of Glasgow and Newcastle who led the direct trial. They sought to assess whether the benefits of weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes affected their risk of developing cancer.

To investigate this, the team used data from 261 patients with type 2 diabetes enrolled in the DIRECT trial. The team analyzed their blood samples before and after weight loss to see if proteins known to be associated with cancer were altered by the weight loss intervention.

Nine cancer-related proteins in blood samples were altered by the weight loss intervention compared to a control group receiving standard care for diabetes treatment.

The results of this study help us gain insight into possible mechanisms linking type 2 diabetes and body fat to cancer development. These results provide encouraging evidence that the cancer risk seen in people with diabetes may be reduced by weight loss interventions. It has important implications in both diabetes treatment and cancer prevention.

The next step in this research is to find out whether the short-term changes we identified actually reduce the long-term risk of cancer in diabetics.

Emma Hazelwood, from the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (MRC IEU) at the University of Bristol, is one of the study’s lead authors.

The research was funded by Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK, the World Cancer Research Fund and Wellcome.


Journal Reference:

Bull, CJ, etc. (2024). Effect of weight loss on serum cancer-related proteins: results of a cluster randomized controlled trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. eBiomedicine. doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2024.104977.

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