January 20, 2012

Cholesterol Lowering Statins Treat Cancer

(Ivanhoe Newswire)- Cholesterol lowering statins seem to be effective against breast cancer in some patients. Research shows that a mutation in a single gene may be a way for researchers to identify tumors that are likely to respond to statin therapy.

Carol Prives and her team at Columbia University devised an experiment to study cancer cells grown in an artificial system that resembles the three-dimensional structures in a human breast. The researchers learned that cells carrying mutations in the p53 gene are invasive and grow in a disorganized manner, which is characteristic of human breast cancer cells. The cell cultures grew more normally when researchers lowered the level of p53.

Further studies, led by the study´s first author William Freed-Pastor, linked these structural changes to a cholesterol-building pathway. This pathway is targeted by cholesterol lowering statins. When the mutant p53 cells were treated with statins, they stopped their aggressive, disorganized growth and in some cases, died. As proof that the drug wasn´t working in some other unplanned way, intermediates of the pathway were added back in and the effects of the drug were erased.

Freed-Pastor and Prives collaborated with researchers in Norway to analyze breast tissue taken from patients and found similar results indicating statin treatment is effective against tumor growth.

Prives emphasizes that although these cell culture findings look promising, considerably more work is needed. Prives is quoted as saying, "There are great implications, but nothing clinical yet. Perhaps one could do a clinical trial, and that may support these findings, or it may be more complicated."

SOURCE: Cell, January 2012