Statins may positively impact cancer cure

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Patients with prostate cancer who receive high-dose radiation treatment and also take statin drugs used to lower cholesterol have a higher chance of being cured of their cancer compared to those who don’t take these medications, according to a study presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) conference in Los Angeles this week.

The retrospective study, conducted by Michael Zelefsky, MD, and colleagues at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, evaluated the five- and 10-year relapse rate between men who underwent radiotherapy and took statins and those who did not take the drugs. The results demonstrated that men who take statins have a 10 percent higher chance of being cured of prostate cancer at 10 years after diagnosis (76 percent), compared with those who didn’t take statins (66 percent).

Statins are a class of drugs used to lower the cholesterol level in people with or at risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also observed that the greatest benefit of statin medications was found in patients who had more aggressive or advanced forms of prostate cancer. The research showed that men who took statins during high-dose radiation therapy had a lower rate of the cancer spreading to distant parts of the body.

“We were, indeed, surprised by the findings that statins used by these patients for other conditions was shown to improve the effectiveness of radiation treatment in killing prostate cancer cells,” said Zelefsky. “The use of statins during radiation may also be effective in the treatment of other types of cancer. However, more studies are necessary to explore the association between statins and radiation treatment in curing cancers.”

The research involved nearly 900 men treated with high-dose radiation therapy for prostate cancer, some of whom were also taking statin drugs, from January 1995 to July 2000.