DURHAM, N.C. – Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins may reduce inflammation in prostate tumors, possibly hindering cancer growth, according to a study led by investigators in the Duke Prostate Center.
“Previous studies have shown that men taking statins seem to have a lower incidence of advanced prostate cancer, but the mechanisms by which statins might be affecting the prostate remained largely unknown,” said Lionel Bañez, M.D., a researcher in the Duke Prostate Center and lead investigator on this study. “We looked at tumor samples and found that men who were on statins had a 72 percent reduction in risk for tumor inflammation, and we believe this might play a role in the connection between prostate cancer and statin use.”
The researchers presented their finding at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting on April 26, 2009, and the study was selected to be part of the meeting’s press program on April 27, 2009. The study was funded by the United States Department of Defense and the American Urological Association Foundation.
The researchers looked at pathological information from the tumors of 254 men who underwent radical prostatectomy – or surgery to remove the entire prostate – as a treatment for prostate cancer at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center between 1993 and 2004. The tissue was graded by a pathologist for inflammation on a scale of 0 to 2: 0 for no inflammation, 1 for mild inflammation (less than 10 percent of the tumor) and 2 for marked inflammation (greater than 10 percent of the tumor).
“This finding provides a potential mechanism of action for statins’ effects on prostate cancer biology,” Bañez said.
Other Duke Prostate Center research has found that inflammation in tumors is associated with recurrent prostate cancer, so these two findings, taken together, provide more impetus for considering the use of statins to possibly control or prevent prostate cancer, Bañez said.
“We’re not there yet, though,” said Stephen Freedland, M.D., a urologist at Duke and senior investigator on this study. “Though very promising, more work has to be done before we recommend that men go out and start taking statins as a path toward better prostate health.”