Background: Serum calcitonin (CT) is a well-accepted marker of C-cell proliferation, particularly in medullary thyroid carcinoma. Chronic glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist administration in rodents has been associated with increased serum CT levels and C-cell tumor formation. There are no longitudinal studies measuring CT in humans without medullary thyroid carcinoma or a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma and no published studies on the effect of GLP-1 receptor agonists on human serum CT concentrations.
Aim: The aim of the study was to determine serum CT response over time to the GLP-1 receptor agonist liraglutide in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus or nondiabetic obese subjects.
Methods: Unstimulated serum CT concentrations were measured at 3-month intervals for no more than 2 yr in a series of trials in over 5000 subjects receiving liraglutide or control therapy.
Results: Basal mean CT concentrations were at the low end of normal range in all treatment groups and remained low throughout the trials. At 2 yr, estimated geometric mean values were no greater than 1.0 ng/liter, well below upper normal ranges for males and females. Proportions of subjects whose CT levels increased above a clinically relevant cutoff of 20 ng/liter were very low in all groups. There was no consistent dose or time-dependent relationship and no consistent difference between treatment groups.
Conclusions: These data do not support an effect of GLP-1 receptor activation on serum CT levels in humans and suggest that findings previously reported in rodents may not apply to humans. However, the long-term consequences of GLP-1 receptor agonist treatment are a subject of further studies.