Men Who Take Statins Less Likely to Die from
Statins prescribed as drugs to control cholesterol
but may work against number one cancer killer of men
May 2, 2013 - Men with prostate cancer who take
cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins are significantly less likely
to die from their cancer than men who don’t take such medication,
according to study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center. The findings were published online yesterday in The Prostate.
The study, led by
Stanford, Ph.D., co-director of the Prostate Cancer Research
Program and a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences
Division, followed about 1,000 Seattle-area prostate cancer patients.
Approximately 30 percent of the study participants
reported using statin drugs to control their cholesterol. After a mean
follow-up of almost eight years, the researchers found that the risk of
death from prostate cancer among statin users was 1 percent as compared
to 5 percent for nonusers.
“If the results of our study are validated in other
patient cohorts with extended follow-up for cause-specific death, an
intervention trial of statin drugs in prostate cancer patients may be
justified,” Stanford said.
“While statin drugs are relatively well tolerated
with a low frequency of serious side effects, they cannot be recommended
for the prevention of prostate cancer-related death until a preventive
effect on mortality from prostate cancer has been demonstrated in a
large, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial,” said first author
Milan S. Geybels, M.Sc., formerly a researcher in Stanford’s group who
is now based at Maastricht University in The Netherlands.
The study is unique in that most prior research of
the impact of statin use on prostate cancer outcomes has focused on
biochemical recurrence – a rising PSA level – and not prostate
“Very few studies of statin use in relation to
death from prostate cancer have been conducted, possibly because such
analyses require much longer follow-up for the assessment of this
prostate cancer outcome,” Geybels said.
The potential biological explanation behind the
association between statin use and decreased mortality from prostate
cancer may be related to cholesterol- and non-cholesterol-mediated
● An example of the former: When cholesterol is
incorporated into cell membranes, these “cholesterol-rich domains” play
a key role in controlling pathways associated with survival of prostate
● An example of the latter: Statin drugs inhibit
an essential precursor to cholesterol production called mevalonate.
Lower levels of mevalonate may reduce the risk of fatal prostate cancer.
“Prostate cancer is an interesting disease for
which secondary prevention, or preventing poor long-term patient
outcomes, should be considered because it is the most common cancer
among men in developed countries and the second leading cause of
cancer-related deaths,” Geybels said.
“While many prostate cancer patients have indolent,
slow-growing tumors, others have aggressive tumors that may recur or
progress to a life-threatening disease despite initial therapy with
radiation or surgery. Therefore, any compound that could stop or slow
the progression of prostate cancer would be beneficial,” he said.
The National Cancer Institute, a grant from the
Dutch Cancer Society and additional support from Fred Hutchinson Cancer
Research Center and the Prostate Cancer Foundation funded the research.
Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates,
interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and
innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and
other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone
marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which
harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal
side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in
Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer
prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center
of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of
the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch
scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to
important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit
or follow Fred Hutch on
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