Can weight loss or a common medication prevent cancer recurrence?



(Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Jessica Yeh

Being overweight is a common problem that increases the risk and decreases survival of certain cancers. About 65 percent of adults in Maryland are overweight. And, there are more than 260 thousand cancer survivors in Maryland; this number is expected to increase because of improvements in treatment and early detection. Studies suggest an association between excess weight and cancer, but we don’t fully understand why. For this reason, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University are conducting a research study on weight loss and a common medication (Metformin) that might affect the risk of cancer recurrence.

The new study, SPIRIT, funded by the State of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, is a research program for cancer survivors who are overweight. The program aims to get a better understanding of how weight loss and a common medication (Metformin) may affect a hormone produced by our body (IGF1) that is potentially related to cancer survival. In this study, researchers will gather information about cancer survivors’ health, and then assign eligible participants to one of the three groups: Self-directed weight loss; Health coach-directed weight loss; and Metformin treatment. For each participant, the group assignment will be randomly done, like drawing a number from a hat.

Researchers will then compare the three groups and their IGF-1hormone level and other health outcomes. The researchers intend to enroll 120 people in SPIRIT.

The Johns Hopkins University ProHealth Center in Gwynn Oak, Maryland is now starting enrollment in the SPIRIT program. The ProHealth Center is located off of Security Boulevard and convenient to get to from I-695 or route 40-W. Participants in SPIRIT will be asked to attend six visits over the course of one year, which include blood tests, blood pressure measurement, and other measurements. Each participant will receive up to $300 for their participation in Spirit. Most importantly, the results from this study may ultimately benefit cancer survivors, their families, and more cancer survivors.

For more information about SPIRIT, email:; or call Johns Hopkins ProHealth at 410-281-1600. More information is available by visiting the study website: