Introduction to GLP-1
GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide-1) analogues are a popular and highly regarded pharmacological treatment for obesity.
Now, new research from Maynooth University’s Kathleen Londsdale Institute for Human Health Research indicates that these drugs could also restore the function of specific anticancer immune cells, potentially offering significant benefits for people with obesity.
Obesity, Immune Cells, and Cancer
Obesity is a prevalent health issue, with the World Health Organization estimating that 13% of the global adult population suffers from this condition.
People with obesity are at a greater risk of developing cancer, in part because their anticancer immune cells, known as ‘Natural Killer (NK)’ cells, become less effective due to their disease.
In the United States, cancers associated with obesity make up 40% of all diagnosed cases each year.
GLP-1 and Its Impact on NK Cells
The research led by Dr. Andrew Hogan found that GLP-1 analogues can restore the function of NK cells, including their ability to kill cancerous cells.
Intriguingly, this restored cancer-killing effect of NK cells appears to be independent of GLP-1’s primary weight loss function, suggesting the treatment directly stimulates the NK cells.
Dr. Hogan stated, “My team and I are very excited by these new findings in relation to the effects of the GLP-1 treatment on people with obesity and it appears to result in real tangible benefits for those currently on the drug.”
Shortage of GLP-1
However, Dr. Hogan also pointed out that recent high-profile endorsements and the global popularity of GLP-1 have resulted in a worldwide shortage of the drug.
Additional Comments on the Research
Conor de Barra, a Ph.D. student in immunology at Maynooth University, who led the work in Dr. Hogan’s lab, emphasized the potential additional benefits of GLP-1 therapy:
“This research and other promising findings on improvements in cardiovascular health after GLP-1 therapy indicate its potential benefits in addition to weight-loss.”
Prof Donal O’Shea, HSE National Lead for Obesity & Principal Investigator, added that the research represents “very positive news for people living with obesity on GLP-1 therapy” and could indicate a reduction in cancer risk.
Dr. Hogan will present these findings at the 30th European Congress on Obesity, which will be held in Dublin on May 20th.
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