Statin Drugs Linked to Effective Prostate Cancer Therapy

Cholesterol meds shown to suppress cancer cells in mice

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Statin drug Rosuvastatin (brand name: Crestor), commonly prescribed for patients with high cholesterol, may prove effective in the treatment of prostate cancer, according to a new study led by Dr. Xiao-Yan Wen at St. Michael’s Hospital. The drug suppressed the growth of human prostate cancer cells implanted in mice, providing “solid pre-clinical evidence and a strong rationale for clinical trials of statins in the treatment of prostate cancer,” Wen said.

Researchers studied seven compounds, four of which were statin drugs, and opted to investigate the cancer-fighting potential of Rosuvastatin.  The drug proved effective with no apparent side effects.

Wen, a staff scientist at St. Michael’s, called the discovery “exciting” and said he and his colleague’s findings present “very convincing experimental evidence.”

The study marks another advance in the link between statins and prostate cancer therapy.

A previous study, published in the June issue of the journal Cancer, found that more than 1,300 men who took statins and underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer had a 30 percent lower risk of recurrence than those who did not take the drugs, and a Mayo Clinic study last year suggested men who took statins were less likely to develop the disease. 

These findings from may be influenced by lifestyle factors, however. For example, researchers in previous studies did not determine if men who took the cholesterol-lowering drugs also exercised more, smoked less and ate better foods as a part of their overall health regimen, leaving some experts skeptical.  

Anthony D’Amico, professor of radiation oncology at Harvard University’s medical school and chief of genitourinary radiation oncology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, wrote that a definitive prospective randomized study is lacking in regard to statin drugs in prostate cancer therapy. His assessment appears in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Research has also shown that statins – which include the brand names Lipitor and Crestor –  may increase the risk of liver, kidney or cataract problems.

Researchers hope clinical trials in humans confirm that statin drugs optimize the benefits of radiation in patients with prostate cancer. The finding would present doctors with an effective and affordable – and less toxic – treatment to the disease, which killed 3 percent of patients in 2005.

Approximately 18 percent of American males will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime. In Canada, where the study was conducted, approximately one in seven will develop prostate cancer, and one in 27 will die from it.  

Wen’s study appears in the September issue of European Urology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 21, 2010
Last Updated:
February 16, 2011