Statins, drugs used to lower cholesterol levels, have been found to be successful in the treatment of breast cancer in a study at New York’s Columbia University, USA. When certain types of breast cancer cells (those with mutant p53 genes) were treated with statins their growth was stopped and some cells were killed.
The authors of the study published in the Cell journal wrote that definitive conclusions on the use of statins in breast cancer cannot as yet be made but that “there are great implications…”
The p53 gene is responsible for supressing tumours, when this gene is absent or mutated it can result in unregulated tumour growth and, in mutated forms, can even encourage the growth of tumours. More than half of all people have a mutated p53 gene. The researchers found that the way in which the cells containing the mutant gene operate is similar to the way in which statins control cholesterol levels. More research is necessary but it is thought that statins may become a viable treatment option for cancer in the future.