Drugs usually prescribed to lower cholesterol may be an effective treatment against prostate cancer, new research suggests.
Researchers from the University of Missouri found that statins designed to combat high cholesterol can reduce the spread of prostate cancer and even kill cancer cells.
Standard treatment for prostate cancer can include chemotherapy that targets receptors on cancer cells. However, drug-resistant cancer cells can emerge during chemotherapy, limiting its effectiveness as a cancer-fighting agent.
According to the researchers, the cholesterol drugs may prevent this.
“Cholesterol is a molecule found in animal cells that serves as a structural component of cell membranes. When tumour cells grow, they synthesise more cholesterol,” explained study author Salman Hyder.
“Often, cancer patients are treated with toxic chemotherapies; however, in our study, we focused on reducing the production of cholesterol in cancer cells, which could kill cancer cells and reduce the need for toxic chemotherapy."
Using a compound developed by Roche Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of high cholesterol called RO 48-8071, Hyder and his team administered the molecule to human prostate cancer cells.
They found that the compound was effective in reducing human prostate cancer cell growth.
In a subsequent study, they found that the compound could even kill cancer cells completely.
Armed with this information, Hyder and the team then tested the results in mice with human prostate cancer cells. Following injection of the compound, Hyder found that the molecule was effective in reducing tumour growth.
According to the scientists, these findings suggest that the potential cholesterol drug, when used in combination with commonly used chemotherapeutic drugs, could "represent a new therapeutic approach in the fight against prostate cancer".