Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Efficacy Outcomes from Immune Checkpoint Blockade in Patients with Cancer

Clin Cancer Res. 2023 Jul 14;29(14):2714-2724. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-22-3116.


Purpose: No evidence exists as to whether type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) impairs clinical outcome from immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) in patients with solid tumors.

Experimental design: In a large cohort of ICI recipients treated at 21 institutions from June 2014 to June 2020, we studied whether patients on glucose-lowering medications (GLM) for T2DM had shorter overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS). We used targeted transcriptomics in a subset of patients to explore differences in the tumor microenvironment (TME) of patients with or without diabetes.

Results: A total of 1,395 patients were included. Primary tumors included non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC; 54.7%), melanoma (24.7%), renal cell (15.0%), and other carcinomas (5.6%). After multivariable analysis, patients on GLM (n = 226, 16.2%) displayed an increased risk of death [HR, 1.29; 95% confidence interval (CI),1.07-1.56] and disease progression/death (HR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.03-1.43) independent of number of GLM received. We matched 92 metformin-exposed patients with 363 controls and 78 patients on other oral GLM or insulin with 299 control patients. Exposure to metformin, but not other GLM, was associated with an increased risk of death (HR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.16-2.03) and disease progression/death (HR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.04-1.72). Patients with T2DM with higher pretreatment glycemia had higher neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (P = 0.04), while exploratory tumoral transcriptomic profiling in a subset of patients (n = 22) revealed differential regulation of innate and adaptive immune pathways in patients with T2DM.

Conclusions: In this study, patients on GLM experienced worse outcomes from immunotherapy, independent of baseline features. Prospective studies are warranted to clarify the relative impact of metformin over a preexisting diagnosis of T2DM in influencing poorer outcomes in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / drug therapy
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Lung Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Metformin* / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Metformin