Weight-Loss Drugs Might Help People with Obesity Fight Cancer

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May 10, 2023 -- An ingredient in popular drugs used for weight loss, like Ozempic and Wegovy, could help people with obesity fight cancer, according to a new, small study published in the journal Obesity.

People with obesity have lower “natural killer,” or NK cells that help fight cancer, according to previous research. The new study, involving 20 obese people who took semaglutide, a key component of Ozempic, designed to treat diabetes, and of Wegovy, a weight loss drug.

Results showed their NK cells improved their function, the study says.

The drugs, “glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) analogues, can actually restore the NK cell function in the body including its ability to kill cancerous cells,” according to a press release from Maynooth University in Ireland, where the research was conducted.

“The restored cancer-killing effect of the 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,” the release says. 

Andrew Hogan, associate professor and principal investigator, said, “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.”

He noted that the drugs’ popularity has led to shortages.

“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,” he said.