Semaglutide and cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2023 Sep;17(9):102834. doi: 10.1016/j.dsx.2023.102834. Epub 2023 Jul 26.


Background: French national health care insurance system database has suggested 1-3 years use of glucagon like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP1RA) (exenatide, liraglutide and dulaglutide) may be linked with increased occurrence of thyroid cancer. Similar data on semaglutide is not-available. Hence, we undertook this systematic review to look at the safety of semaglutide focussing on different cancers.

Methods: Databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and real-world studies involving patients receiving semaglutide in the intervention-arm. Primary outcome was to evaluate the occurrence of pancreatic and thyroid cancers. Secondary outcomes were to the evaluate occurrence of any other malignancies or severe adverse-events.

Results: Data from 37 RCTs and 19 real-world studies having 16,839 patients in placebo-control group, 16,550 patients in active-control group and 13,330 patients in real-world studies were analysed. Compared to placebo, occurrence of pancreatic cancer [OR 0.25 (95%CI: 0.03-2.24); P = 0.21], thyroid cancer [OR 2.04 (95%CI: 0.33-12.61); P = 0.44; I2 = 0%] and all neoplasms (benign, malignant and otherwise unspecified) [OR 0.95 (95%CI:0.62-1.45); P = 0.82; I2 = 0%] was similar in the semaglutide group. Compared to active controls, occurrence of pancreatic cancer [OR 0.40 (95%CI:0.09-1.87); P = 0.26; I2 = 0%], thyroid cancer [OR 1.19 (95%CI:0.15-9.66); P = 0.87; I2 = 0%] and all neoplasms (benign, malignant and otherwise unspecified) [OR 0.91 (95% CI: 0.44-1.89); P = 0.79; I2 = 0%] were similar in the semaglutide group. Real-world data analysis revealed single case each of pancreatic cancer and B-cell lymphoma.

Conclusion: Semaglutide use in RCTs and real-world studies was not associated with an increased risk of any types of cancer, and this conclusion is supported by a high grade of evidence.

Keywords: Cancer; Pancreatic cancer; Semaglutide; Systematic review; Thyroid cancer.