Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs that are taken by millions of Americans
might also improve survival from a type of kidney cancer called renal cell
carcinoma, a new study suggests.
Statins - drugs such as Crestor, Lipitor, Pravachol and Zocor - have
anti-inflammatory and cell self-destruction properties, and previous research
has shown that these drugs may lower the risk of developing some types of
cancer. The new research, presented at the annual meeting of the
American Urological Association in San Diego, suggests that the drugs might
fight kidney cancer.
"Given that one in four Americans over 45 years of age take a statin and
renal cell carcinoma occurs most often in men ages 50 to 70, it may be prudent
to prospectively evaluate if statins protect against [cancer] progression,"
study author Dr Scott Eggener, an associate professor of urologic oncology at
the University of Chicago, said.
One expert not connected to the study wasn't surprised by the findings.
"The use of statins has shown promise in previous studies with reducing
overall cancer-related mortality," said Dr Michael Palese, an associate
professor of urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York
City. He added that certain characteristics of renal cell carcinomas might
render statins "beneficial" for patients.
In the study, Eggener's team reviewed data from more than 900 patients who
had surgery for renal cell carcinoma between 1995 and 2010. After an average
follow-up period approaching four years, statin use was associated with a
reduced risk of cancer progression, the team reported.
Over three years, 10% of the patients who took statins died of their cancer,
compared with 17% of those who did not take this type of drug.
After accounting for other factors, the researchers concluded that statin use
was independently associated with both improved overall survival and
Another expert said the finding echoes those seen in other studies involving
"Last year in a study published in the New England Journal of
Medicine, Danish researchers studied 13 different cancers and found that in
all types, the use of statins was associated with longer cancer specific
survival," said Dr Manish Vira, director of the fellowship program in urologic
oncology at North Shore-LIJ's Arthur Smith Institute for Urology in Lake
But he stressed that the data so far come from observational trials, which
can prove an association but not a cause-and-effect relationship between statin
use and improved survival.
"Given the current data and known cardiovascular protective effects of
statins, certainly it seems prudent to design clinical trials to study the
potential of statin therapy in breast, colon, prostate and now kidney cancer
treatment," Vira said.
Studies presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Find out more about renal cell carcinoma at the US
National Cancer Institute.