Brisbane, Australia—Lipid-lowering medications are widely used worldwide to protect against cardiovascular disease. Some research also suggests that they could be protective from cancer and related mortality.

An article in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology notes that those studies have been inconclusive and that the effect of lipid‐lowering medications (LLMs) on cancer-survival benefit requires more evidence. Australian researchers from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute tested the hypothesis that cancer‐specific mortality is lowered in a homogeneous population on the medications before diagnosis.

The study team linked the Australian Cancer Database to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme database, and to the National Death Index up to 2015. The focus was associations between adherence to LLMs—statins, lipophilic, and hydrophilic statins—and cancer‐specific mortality.

From 2003 to 2013, researchers identified three separate cohorts of 20,046, 11, 719 and 6,430 female patients with newly diagnosed breast, colorectal cancer, and melanoma, respectively. All had similar 1‐year adherence to LLMs, about 82%.

Results indicate that each 10% increase in 1‐year adherence to LLMs was inversely associated with cancer‐specific mortality among women with breast cancer (fully adjusted HR = 0.92, 95% CI, 0.91-0.93), colorectal cancer (fully adjusted HR = 0.92, 95% CI, 0.91-0.93), or melanoma (fully adjusted HR = 0.97, 95% CI, 0.94-1.00).

“The reductions in cancer‐specific mortality were more pronounced for women who adhered to lipophilic rather than hydrophilic statins in all 3 cancers albeit, not statistically significant for melanoma,” the authors report.

“If this inverse adherence-response relationship is confirmed, cholesterol-lowering medications—primarily statins—could be repurposed as adjuvant therapy to improve cancer prognosis,” added coauthor Jia-Li Feng, BMed, MMed, PhD, of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

The authors add that the inverse association is not altered by receiving endocrine therapy in breast cancer.

“An increasing number of preclinical and epidemiological studies are claiming lipid‐lowering medications (LLMs), primarily statins, have anticancer properties to inhibit proliferation, activate apoptosis, and reduce metastasis,” according to background information in the study.

“In this context, the idea of repositioning of LLM as antitumor agent has been proposed. It is imperative to confirm the promising antitumor effect of LLM before it could be repurposed in cancer therapy.”

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