Obese people who take Ozimbic or Wiggovi to lose extra pounds may get an unexpected benefit.
Results of a small trial published May 9 in the journal Nature obesity suggest that medications containing semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, may help reduce the risk of cancer. That’s because the study found that semaglutide restored the function of so-called “natural killer” cells, which play a role in fighting cancer but often don’t work properly in people with obesity.
“People who are obese can develop a variety of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea,” lead study author Conor de Barra, a PhD candidate and researcher in immunology at the University of Maynooth in Ireland, said in a statement. Sleep, and cancer. “These can have very negative effects on their quality of life.”
Are there additional benefits to taking Ozempic?
For the study, the researchers examined data on 20 obese people who had impaired natural killer cell function. The scientists gave all the participants weekly doses of semaglutide, which belongs to a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogues that were originally developed to treat diabetes, but have gained popularity as a treatment for weight loss.
After six months of treatment, the participants had a significant improvement in natural killer cell function. The amount of improvement did not seem to be affected by the amount of weight people lost.
This suggests that semaglutide and other GLP-1 drugs may have “potential benefits in addition to weight loss,” de Parra said.
Some previous research has explored the relationship between GLP-1 medications and cancer risk, with mixed results. One 2019 meta-analysis of 37 clinical trials was published in the journal Endocrine In November 2019, albiglutide, a no longer available GLP-1 drug, was found to reduce the risk of cancer by 24 percent in people with type 2 diabetes.
However, other research has linked GLP-1 drugs to an increased risk of thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer.
Semaglutide may reduce inflammation regardless of weight loss
The latest study is too small and brief to draw general conclusions about how semaglutide or other GLP-1 drugs affect cancer risk over time, especially for many common cancers that take years to develop. And although GLP-1 drugs are often used to treat type 2 diabetes, the current study only focused on individuals who were taking semaglutide to treat obesity, a more recent use of this drug.
Still, the findings are plausible, given how obesity affects natural killer cells, says Luiz Vicente Rizzo, MD, PhD, director of research at the Albert Einstein-Jewish Institute for Education and Research in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
That’s because excess fat tissue can trigger inflammation, which triggers a process that signals natural killer cells to gravitate toward that tissue, says Dr. Rizzo, who studied these cells but was not involved in the new research. These cells are then essentially trapped in adipose tissue, which reduces their ability to fight off cellular activity that leads to cancer.
A study was published in the August 2022 issue of Pharmaceutical research It has been suggested that semaglutide may have anti-inflammatory properties, says Rizzo. When people take this drug, Rizzo says, “the trapped natural killer cells are released while the inflammation associated with the fat tissue subsides,” allowing them to work again. Even without significant weight loss.