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Research may unlock statins cancer-fighting ability

Published on 17/07/17 at 10:50am

Many previous studies have shown that statins are able to have an impact on cancer cells but the results have yet to be seen in human trials. Keele University has now conducted research that could point towards why they have proved ineffective so far.

Research found that it is crucial which type of statins are used and many other variables need to carefully controlled. One particular variable that was noted to have an influence was diet.

Dr Alan Richardson, who led the research at Keele and co-authored the paper, explained: “We believe we have found the answer to the paradox: for statins to be effective as a cancer therapy, the right statin needs to be used, it needs to be delivered at the right dose and interval, and diet needs to be controlled to reduce sources of geranylgeraniol, which can limit the statin’s effect on cancer cells.”

In particular, the researchers found that the statin pitavastatin was well-suited to inhibiting the growth of ovarian cancer cells. The reason for this statin’s success lies in the fact it the target of the statin, hydroxymethylglutarate coenzyme-A reductase, was found to be over-expressed in all ovarian cancer cell lines examined. The long half-life of the statin also allowed it slow growth over an extended period of time.

Dr Richardson, who also worked on the study, outlined the impact of diet upon the research: “Our research found that the tumour-inhibiting effects of pitavastatin in mice were limited when dietary geranylgeraniol was present. Statins work in cancer by preventing cancer cells making geranylgeraniol. However, geranylgeraniol is present in various foods including sunflower oil and some rice, so in future clinical trials, we need to carefully control diet to limit geranylgeraniol.”

The next step for the research will be to test the potential of this particular statin in humans and means that all participants will have to follow a dietary plan to ensure such foods do not reduce the efficacy of the drugs.

This piece of research could mean that further studies could be carried out with statins that also analyse the variables found in this study to influence statins’ potency.

Statins remain a big hope within medicine, as they could provide a cost-effective treatment for many disorders – with the drugs being off-patent and cheap to produce.

Ben Hargreaves

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