Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It is estimated that about one in 38 men will die of prostate cancer and about one in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
Prostate cancer feeds on male hormones called androgens, which include the hormone called testosterone. Oncologists usually treat this cancer type with androgen deprivation therapy, that is, hormonal therapy to suppress androgen levels in the body.
According to research presented at a recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Orlando, FL, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may help to slow prostate cancer in men who are also taking androgen deprivation therapy. The researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Center say that taking a statin drug simultaneously with hormone therapy can slow the progress of prostate cancer by about 10 months.
Medical data from 926 prostate cancer patients being treated with androgen deprivation therapy were reviewed. About 31 percent of the men were taking a statin drug due to high cholesterol levels at the time they began treatment for the cancer. The researchers found that
- Statin users were less likely to be initially diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer
- Statin users had about 27.5 months of progression-free survival on androgen deprivation therapy
- Those not taking statins had about 17 months of progression-free survival
- The link between statin intake and progression-free survival remained statistically significant even after accounting for other factors
The researchers point out that there are two ways that statins could impact prostate cancer:
- By interfering with the process through which prostate tumor cells absorb male hormones
- By reducing cholesterol levels, statins can cause a reduction in available androgens which are responsible for building the cancer cells
The lead author of the study said that clinical laboratory tests have shown that statins tend to defeat androgens, eventually causing them to be absorbed by prostate cancer cells.
The scientists said that research and randomized clinical trials are needed to validate their results.