Study finds link between statins and improved survival in inflammatory breast cancer

December 6, 2012, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found statins, the commonly used drug to lower cholesterol, improved progression-free survival in patients with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).

The retrospective study was presented today in a poster discussion at the 2012 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Symposium and follows a previously reported Danish study indicating there is some evidence to suggest the anti-inflammatory properties of statins could reduce the risk of . Still, the overall effects of statins have not been examined in relation to IBC.

IBC is a rare type of breast cancer that develops quickly when malignant cells block lymph vessels in the skin and soft tissue. It accounts for only 1-5 percent of all invasive breast cancers, according to the .

"We decided to take a different approach with the smaller population of inflammatory and see if it's truly an inflammatory disease, whether or not there's some substantial impact of statin use in this population," said Naoto T. Ueno, M.D., Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Breast Medical Oncology and executive director of the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Program and Clinic.

Ueno, the corresponding author, and his colleagues reviewed 724 patients diagnosed and treated for stage III inflammatory breast cancer at MD Anderson between 1995 and 2011. Patients with records indicating statin use at the time of diagnosis were compared to those who were not taking statins. In total, the stage III group contained 74 statin users and 650 non-users.

The primary end-point was progression-free survival (PFS), while secondary end-points measured overall survival (OS) and disease-specific survival (DSS).

Additionally, researchers compared the clinical outcomes of those in the statin group based on the type of statin, lipophilic (fat-soluble) or hydrophilic (water-soluble), an important distinction as differences in survival emerged throughout the trial. The authors note patients who used both drug categories, or patients missing information on their specific statin type, were excluded from the survival estimates.

Outcomes Show Improvement

Patients with no record of statin use had 1.76 years DFS, while patients who took lipophilic statins saw improved survival rates of 2.47 years. The greatest improvement in survival was noted in patients with past hydrophilic statin use at 4.88 years.

Increased survival rates also extended to the DSS end-point. Patients with no statin use measured a DSS of 4.52 years, while hydrophilic patients measured 5.10 years.

The authors note there is a trend in overall survival, however the OS end-point did not reach statistical significance.

"The previous Danish study looking at statins examined a much larger group of participants, around 10,000 and more. So we're talking about a much smaller set of patients and to see the significant improvement in survival gives us a new perspective on the use of statins," said Ueno.

While Ueno added the findings are encouraging, the study does have limitations. First, no data was available describing how long patients had been taking statins, or for what indication. Those who did use statins may represent a population with better access to health care, a more health-conscious lifestyle and a higher education level, according to the researchers.

"This is an existing drug that was not developed for cancer and while developing new agents is important, statins are currently in the market and may have a significant role in the treatment we provide," he said.

Additional Research Warranted

MD Anderson researchers are planning prospective randomized studies in IBC to better evaluate the potential survival benefits of statins. Further studies also hope to identify what subset of populations would be best suited for statin use. Ueno said there is an important convenience factor involved, as participants can take statins anywhere and require only occasional follow-up.

Explore further: Statins may help prolong survival in NSCLC resection

Related Stories

Statins may help prolong survival in NSCLC resection

October 22, 2012
Patients who have undergone resection for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) may improve their overall survival and reduce the risk of recurrence by taking statins.

Study finds no link between statins and cancer risk

July 25, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that, contrary to previous studies, the use of cholesterol reducing statin drugs does not increase the risk of patients ...

Statin use at cancer diagnosis linked to lower mortality

November 8, 2012
(HealthDay)—For patients with cancer, statin use prior to diagnosis correlates with reduced all-cause and cancer-related mortality, according to a study published in the Nov. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Statins prevent cancer in heart transplant recipients

May 20, 2012
Statins prevent cancer and reduce death from all causes in heart transplant recipients. The findings were independent of cholesterol levels.

Recommended for you

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

Presurgical targeted therapy delays relapse of high-risk stage 3 melanoma

January 17, 2018
A pair of targeted therapies given before and after surgery for melanoma produced at least a six-fold increase in time to progression compared to standard-of-care surgery for patients with stage 3 disease, researchers at ...

Dulling cancer therapy's double-edged sword

January 17, 2018
Researchers have discovered that killing cancer cells can actually have the unintended effect of fueling the proliferation of residual, living cancer cells, ultimately leading to aggressive tumor progression.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.