Effects of metformin versus placebo on vitamin B12 metabolism in non-diabetic breast cancer patients in CCTG MA.32

From the CCTG, Alliance, SWOG, ECOG, NSABP Cooperative Groups

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Metformin is associated with low levels of vitamin B12 (VitB12) in patients with diabetes. The CCTG/MA.32 trial investigates the effects of metformin vs placebo on breast cancer (BC) outcomes in non-diabetic high-risk BC patients. We analyzed VitB12 at baseline and after 6 months of metformin (versus placebo) in the first 492 patients with paired blood samples. Methods: VitB12 was analyzed centrally in baseline and 6-month fasting plasma. Levels <181 pmol/L were considered deficient, 181–221 pmol/L borderline, and ≥222 pmol/L sufficient. Methylmalonic acid (MMA) and homocysteine (HC) were assayed in those with VitB12 levels <222 pmol/L. Statistical analyses used Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients and Wilcoxon signed-rank test for continuous variables and Chi-square test for categorical variables. Results: 237 patients received metformin and 255 received placebo; median (inter quartile range) baseline VitB12 levels were 390 (290, 552) and 370 (290, 552) pmol/L in the metformin and placebo arms, respectively (p = 0.97). At 6 months, the median levels were 320 (244, 419) in the metformin versus 380 (286, 546) pmol/L in the placebo arm (p = 0.0001). At baseline, 15 patients (11 metformin and 4 placebo) had VitB12 <181 pmol/L, and at 6 months, 18 patients (15 metformin and 3 placebo) (p = 0.004). Median hemoglobin was similar at baseline, metformin, 130 g/L (124–137), and placebo arms, 131 g/L (124–137) (p = 0.38), and at 6 months, metformin, 131 g/L (91–162), and 131 g/L (106–169) in placebo group (p = 0.11). Of the 74 subjects with vitamin B12 <222 pmol/L at either time point (45 metformin, 29 placebo), at baseline MMA was normal in all patients and two had elevated HC (>15μmol/L). At 6 months, one patient (metformin) had MMA >0.4μmol/L and 3 (2 metformin, 1 placebo) had HC > 15μmol/L. Conclusions: There was an increased rate of biochemical VitB12 deficiency after 6 months of metformin; this was not associated with anemia. Further research will investigate VitB12 levels in all subjects at baseline and at 6 and 60 months.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-378
Number of pages8
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Anemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Homocysteine
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Metformin
  • Methylmalonic acid
  • Vitamin B12

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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