Typically, statins, or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are prescribed to help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. But could this class of drugs be repurposed for the treatment of another group – those with triple-negative breast cancer? According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the answer could be yes. In one of their recent studies, researchers sought to better understand the impact of stations on patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Ultimately, the research team determined that patients who used statins saw improvement in overall survival rate. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the published research in Cancer.
According to MedicineNet, statins are:
a class of drugs that lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood by reducing the production of cholesterol by the liver. Statins block the enzyme in the liver that is responsible for making cholesterol.
These affordable and accessible drugs are also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, blood clots, or stroke. In the past, research has been unclear about whether or not statins could be used to treat patients with breast cancer. However, understanding effective treatments is crucial; after all, breast cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in females. Researchers questioned whether the past research was inconsistent due to the various subtypes of breast cancer. Thus, to perform this research, they focused specifically on triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for anywhere from 10-15% of breast cancer diagnoses. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.:
A diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene– are not present in the cancer tumor. This means that the breast cancer cells have tested negative for hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2), estrogen receptors (ER), and progesterone receptors (PR).
This aggressive form of breast cancer can sometimes be difficult to treat. Because many treatment options target these receptors, the current standards-of-care are relatively ineffective. Triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to affect younger individuals, those of Black or Hispanic descent, or those with BRCA1 gene mutations. Signs and symptoms include:
- Breast swelling
- Nipple discharge
- Breast or nipple pain
- Skin dimpling, pitting, flaking, reddening, or thickening
- Retracted nipples
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lump in the breast
Research on Statins
For this study, researchers performed a retrospective analysis of patient data from the SEER-Medicare and TCR-Medicare registries. Altogether, data from 23,192 females were analyzed. Those included were over 66 years old and had stage 1-3 breast cancer. Researchers found that 2,281 patients (9.8%) began using statins after receiving a diagnosis. The research showed that:
- High-intesity statin was most effective at improving overall survival rate. However, other forms of statins, such as lipophilic statins, also improved overall survival.
- In fact, using statins improved improvement in overall survival by 30%, with a 58% relative improvement in breast cancer survival specifically.
- Statin use is most effective when used in early stages of breast cancer. The treatment works by inducing cell death and preventing breast cancer cells from dividing.
Moving forward, researchers hope to perform clinical trials to further evaluate this treatment method.