Dalhousie researchers studying effects of diabetes drug on oral lesions

Dental Exam

Dental researchers at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, are leading a clinical trial to investigate whether a commonly used type 2 diabetes drug could prevent oral cancer.

The three-year study, led by Dr. Leigha Rock, is recruiting and studying 86 patients with precancerous oral lesions known as leukoplakia and erythroplakia. Patients will be given either the drug metformin or a placebo and monitored over 24 weeks to see if lesions change in appearance. 

Oral cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the world and has a five-year survival rate of about 50%. Between 5% and 15% of low-grade oral premalignant lesions progress to cancer. If they become cancerous, surgery is the standard treatment. However, surgery may result in the patient losing part of their tongue or other regions in their mouth. 

Rock previously led a study investigating the effects of metformin on oral premalignant lesions, which this study builds on. The hope for the study is that patients can have an early treatment option for oral lesions before they progress into advanced cancers. 

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