How a Cholesterol Rx Might Combat Prostate Cancer

Statins combined with androgen deprivation therapy may slow prostate cancer progression

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Sometimes two medications may be better than one — at least when it comes to prostate cancer treatment.

A new study found that statin medications might slow the progression of prostate cancer in men who are undergoing androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

The authors of this study tested the effect of statins on a gene that helps medications and hormones enter cells. Although past research also suggested that statins may slow the progression prostate cancer, this was the first study to look at the biological mechanism behind this effect. Statins are commonly used to treat patients who have high cholesterol.

"[These researchers] hypothesize that statins compete for a cellular transporter that helps a testosterone precursor to enter cells, thus stunning disease progression," said Alexander Kutikov, MD, an oncologist with Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, in an interview with dailyRx News. "They support this assertion by data obtained in the laboratory from prostate cells in cell culture. These data certainly dovetail with other reports of statin use and favorable oncologic outcomes. Nevertheless, given the retrospective nature of this analysis, we must not over-interpret these findings. Indeed, statin use may simply be a marker of a patient who was destined to have a better outcome and not the cause of the better outcome."

These researchers did not recommend using both statins and ADT drugs on a routine basis, however.

Philip W. Kantoff, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, led a research team to look at the effects of statins (brand names like Lipitor, Lescol, Zocor and Crestor) in men with prostate cancer who were undergoing ADT.

ADT is a hormone therapy that suppresses the male sex hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). ADT does not cure prostate cancer. However, it may slow the progression of the disease by keeping these male hormones from stimulating the growth of cancer cells.

Dr. Kantoff and team studied data on 926 patients who received ADT for prostate cancer between 1996 and 2013. Of those patients, 283 were also taking statins when they started ADT.

In patients undergoing ADT who were taking statins, prostate cancer took around 10 months longer to progress than in those who were not on statins.

Although these findings may be promising, this study may not necessarily mean men who have prostate cancer should routinely be prescribed statin medications, Dr. Kantoff and team noted.

In an editorial about this study, Jorge D. Ramos, DO, and Evan Y. Yu, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, wrote that Dr. Kantoff and team “have made a compelling argument for a biologic mechanism of action of statins in advanced prostate cancer."

However, Drs. Ramos and Yu said validation of the clinical benefits of statin use in advanced prostate cancer was still necessary.

"The current data is not sufficient to support incorporation of statin use into clinical oncology practice for patients with prostate cancer, and additional studies are required," Drs. Ramos and Yu wrote.

The study and editorial were published May 7 in JAMA Oncology.

The Dana-Farber Prostate Cancer SPORE and the Department of Defense funded this research.

Study author Aaron M. Kantoff was vice president of Apple Tree Pharmaceuticals, an investor in Tokai Pharmaceuticals. These companies make drugs used in prostate cancer treatment.

Review Date: 
May 6, 2015
Last Updated:
May 11, 2015