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Roshini Claire Anthony, 29 May 2020

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Statins potential agent in cancer treatment

Pank Jit Sin
30 Mar 2020
Statins may have benefits in cancer treatment.
Statins, a class of drugs that has already shown potential in reducing aggressive prostate cancer risk, is now possibly effective against other cancers, too. 


Researchers looked at a group of 2,500 drugs already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine which ones had the best kill rate of genetically engineered mutant cells. These cells carry a mutation in the PTEN gene: this gene is responsible as a tumour suppressor, thus mutations in this gene are a step in the development of some cancers. [Med Sci Monit 2004;10(10):RA235–241]

According to one of the study authors, Peter N. Devreotes, Ph.D, professor of cell biology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, there already exists epidemiological indications that people who take statins over the long term have fewer and less aggressive cancers, and statins can kill cancer cells in the laboratory. Among the 2,500 drugs tested, statins (in particular pitavastatin), emerged as a top contender in cancer-killing ability. Most of the other drugs had no effect or were lethal similarly to both normal and engineered cells. [Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020;117(8):4158–4168]

Statins block the production of the molecule geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate, or GGPP, which is responsible for connecting cellular proteins to cellular membranes. When pitavastatin and GGPP were added to human cancer cells with PTEN mutations, GGPP prevented the statin from killing those cells, thus leading to the conclusion that GGPP may be an important molecule in cancer cell survival.

The researchers then looked at cancer cells engineered to lack the enzyme which manufactures GGPP and discovered that these cells were not moving. Normally, cancer cells move vigorously, consuming vast amounts of nutrients to fuel their growth. Devreotes’ team postulated that the cells were starving to death due to the inability to absorb nutrients from their environment.

To test this hypothesis, they measured statin-treated cells’ nutrient intake by adding a fluorescent tag to proteins in the cells’ environment. They observed that normal human cells, even though treated with statins, glowed due to ingestion of the fluorescent tag. Conversely, human cancer cells with PTEN mutations and treated with statins had almost no glowing proteins in their cells, thus confirming the idea that these cells were being starved by the addition of statins.

Devreotes and his team intend to perform further research on the effects of statins in people with cancer and compounds that block GGPP.

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Most Read Articles
Roshini Claire Anthony, 29 May 2020

For coffee drinkers, drinking filtered coffee may be tied to a lower mortality risk, including cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality, a study from Norway suggested.

5 days ago
Use of corticosteroid is not associated with improved outcomes in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients admitted to the hospital with acute exacerbation (AE), reveals a recent study. In addition, corticosteroids may even contribute to reduced overall survival following exacerbation.
Dr. Wong Soon Tee, 28 May 2020
Acne is a common skin problem seen in primary care. Dr Wong Soon Tee of Assurance Skin Clinic at Mt Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore shares his insights with Pearl Toh on how to manage acne in the primary care setting.
27 May 2020
The perception that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) cause multiple serious adverse effects (AEs) is supported by many internists, who then recommend treatment cessation even in patients at high risk for upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB), reveals a study.