Cholesterol drug inhibits cancer cells in lab

Atorvastatin, the widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering “statin” drug, sold under the trade name Lipitor, shows significant action against human bladder cancer cells in laboratory experiments, researchers report in the medical journal Urology.

Although the findings suggest that atorvastatin is active against bladder cancer cells, clinical trials are still needed to confirm these results in patients, lead investigator Dr. Ashish M. Kamat told Reuters Health.

Kamat and Dr. Gina M. Nelkin of the University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, note that some research has suggested that statin use might increase the risk of cancer-related deaths.

To further investigate the effects of atorvastatin, the researchers examined the activity of this cholesterol-lowering drug on two types of cultured human bladder cancer cells. At concentrations comparable to those achievable with oral administration, atorvastatin inhibited cell growth and DNA synthesis in both bladder cancer cell types.

This led to significant cell toxicity, which was demonstrated by DNA fragmentation and induction of cell death. Destruction of up to 70 percent of bladder cancer cells was observed.

The safety of this drug has already been established Dr. Kamat pointed out. Based on these new observations, he recommends that studies be done to evaluate the cancer prevention capabilities of atorvastatin. “At the least, it might offer patients, who are often older and smokers, protection against cardiac events.”

SOURCE: Urology, December 2005.

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Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.