Research has revealed that statins, drugs which are most often taken to lower high cholesterol levels, could help to prevent and even treat cancer.
Scientists from New York’s Columbia University now believe statins could be effective in fighting certain forms of breast cancer.
Their investigations focused on breast cells containing defective versions of the p53 gene, which, when healthy, suppresses cells with cancerous properties.
However, when the p53 gene mutates it promotes the growth of cancerous tumours, but by treating patients with statins the cells stopped growing and in some cases they even died.
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“The data raises the possibility that we might identify subsets of patients whose tumours may respond to statins,” said Dr Carol Prives, who led the study alongside Dr William Freed-Pastor.
“Of course we can't make any definitive conclusions until we know more. There are great implications, but nothing clinical yet.
“Perhaps one could do a clinical trial and that may support these findings, or it may be more complicated,” she added.
Previous research has already suggested that statins may be an effective tool in cancer prevention and treatment.
One study, which was carried out in 2011 and published in the journal Cancer, estimated that men who took statins after surgery to remove prostate cancer had 30 percent less chance of it returning.
Additionally, separate research revealed that those patients who took statins for five or more years were less likely to develop colon cancer.
This most recent research has been published in the journal Cell and commenting on the findings, Dr Caitlin Palframan, from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, said: “We’re excited that existing drugs, like statins, are showing potential in the fight against breast cancer.
“This research identifies a relatively large group of breast cancer patients who could be targeted with statins, though we will need to see the results of clinical trials to know whether this will work.”
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