Identification of patient characteristics associated with survival benefit from metformin treatment in patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2022 Mar 10;S0022-5223(22)00241-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2022.02.046. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) continues to be a major cause of cancer deaths. Previous investigation has suggested that metformin use can contribute to improved outcomes in NSCLC patients. However, this association is not uniform in all analyzed cohorts, implying that patient characteristics might lead to disparate results. Identification of patient characteristics that affect the association of metformin use with clinical benefit might clarify the drug's effect on lung cancer outcomes and lead to more rational design of clinical trials of metformin's utility as an intervention. In this study, we examined the association of metformin use with long-term mortality benefit in patients with NSCLC and the possible modulation of this benefit by body mass index (BMI) and smoking status, controlling for other clinical covariates.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study in which we analyzed data from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Tumor Registry in the United States. Data from all patients with stage I NSCLC from 2000 to 2016 were extracted from a national database, the Corporate Data Warehouse that captures data from all patients, primarily male, who underwent treatment through the VA health system in the United States. Metformin use was measured according to metformin prescriptions dispensed to patients in the VA health system. The association of metformin use with overall survival (OS) after diagnosis of stage I NSCLC was examined. Patients were further stratified according to BMI and smoking status (previous vs current) to examine the association of metformin use with OS across these strata.

Results: Metformin use was associated with improved survival in patients with stage I NSCLC (average hazard ratio, 0.82; P < .001). An interaction between the effect of metformin use and BMI on OS was observed (χ2 = 3268.42; P < .001) with a greater benefit of metformin use observed in patients as BMI increased. Similarly, an interaction between smoking status and metformin use on OS was also observed (χ2 = 2997.05; P < .001) with a greater benefit of metformin use observed in previous smokers compared with current smokers.

Conclusions: In this large retrospective study, we showed that a survival benefit is enjoyed by users of metformin in a robust stage I NSCLC patient population treated in the VA health system. Metformin use was associated with an 18% improved OS. This association was stronger in patients with a higher BMI and in previous smokers. These observations deserve further mechanistic study and can help rational design of clinical trials with metformin in patients with lung cancer.

Keywords: lung cancer; metformin; obesity; outcomes.