A new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology recently revealed that statin drugs may be capable of slowing prostate cancer progression in patients under hormone therapy. The study was led by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Xin Hua Hospital in China and the Harvard School of Public Health in Massachusetts.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with almost one million new cases diagnosed every year worldwide. It is a curable cancer that can range from slow-growing tumors (more common) to rapidly progressing aggressive tumors, which are more difficult to treat. Early detection and treatment of prostate cancer is crucial.
Androgen deprivation therapy is an anti-hormone treatment that reduces male androgen hormone levels, like testosterone, known to induce the growth of prostate cancer cells, therefore inhibiting cancer growth and proliferation. This therapy is considered the frontline treatment in men with hormone-sensitive prostate cancers that have spread beyond the prostate gland.
Statins are drugs widely used to lower cholesterol levels and they have been suggested to delay prostate cancer growth in patients under androgen deprivation therapy.
The results of a clinical trial involving 926 men with prostate cancer revealed that individuals under statin treatment when they initiat androgen deprivation therapy for their prostate cancer had the disease controlled for a longer period of time (a median of 27.5 months) when compared to men who were not using statins (median of 17.4 months).
“This median 10-month benefit in delaying disease progression suggests that statins could be a valuable addition to our current therapies for prostate cancer,” said the study’s first author Dr. Lauren Harshman in a news release. “These results are supported by multiple prior epidemiologic studies demonstrating that statin use may be associated with improved outcomes in prostate cancer, but require validation.”
The research team analyzed the mechanism behind this statin effect on prostate cancer and reported that a protein named SLCO2B1 helps a testosterone precursor known as DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) and also statin drugs to enter into the cells. Researchers found that statins could hamper the uptake of DHEAS in prostate cancer cell lines by controlling the available pool of SLCO2B and consequently block the entrance of DHEAS in cancer cells.
“We present a plausible mechanism by which statins may work in prostate cancer by decreasing the tumor’s available androgen pool and thus improving patient outcomes,” concluded the study’s senior author Dr. Philip Kantoff. “Further study is required to validate our findings.”