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Statins Fall Short in Breast Cancer Prevention

February 9, 2009

They’ve been hailed as miracle drugs for the heart, but statins aren’t getting rave reviews when it comes to cancer prevention.

A new study conducted in mice suggests these drugs, which lower cholesterol, have little or no effect on warding off breast cancer. Mice in the study were given two different statins, atorvastatin and lovastatin, in their regular diets. Neither led to a lower rate of breast cancer.

The researchers also compared the mice that were given statins to those who received tamoxifen or bexarotene, drugs known to help prevent breast cancer. Those mice were less likely to develop the disease. Adding atorvastatin to the tamoxifen or bexarotene regimens did not improve the results.

The authors note the mice in this study took the statins by mouth, which could be why these findings don’t support earlier work suggesting statins might have a protective effect. “Prior studies have shown some, but limited, efficacy in breast cancer models when these drugs were given through a method that would be the equivalent of intravenously in humans,” study author Ronald Lubet, Ph.D., an National Cancer Institute program director, was quoted as saying. “However, that is not the way people take statins.”

He stops short of concluding statins have no role in breast cancer prevention, however. “There is always the question of whether there will be a subset of breast cancer where this class of agents will be effective, but the answer at this point is that the present preclinical studies do not support the use of statins as general breast cancer preventive agents.”

SOURCE: Cancer Prevention Research, published online February 5, 2009

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