Cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, used alongside chemotherapy have no effect on prolonging the survival of lung cancer patients, a new study has found. Contrary to earlier studies claiming that statins played a role in preventing cancer development or prolonging the survival of patients with several common cancers, researchers from the Imperial College London and University College London in the UK have found that the drugs do not, in fact, benefit lung cancer patients at all.
Statins work by lowering cholesterol levels in patients and are usually prescribed by doctors to help prevent heart attacks or strokes.
Researchers studied about 846 patients from 91 hospitals in the UK. Patients were randomly selected to receive either the statin or a placebo alongside their usual chemotherapy treatment, and were monitored over two years.
The results showed that, although there were no adverse effects from taking statins, there were no advantages either.
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“It’s becoming increasingly common for patients with increased cholesterol to take statins and many cancer patients will be or have been prescribed these drugs entirely separately from their cancer treatment,” said Michael Seckl, professor at Imperial College London.
There is no reason for people to stop taking statins to manage their cholesterol, but it is extremely unlikely, for patients with small cell lung cancer, that taking statins will make any difference to their cancer treatment outcome, the researchers said.
“Because all statins work in a similar way to lower cholesterol, it’s relatively unlikely that statins other than Pravastatin would have a different, more beneficial effect,” Seckl said.
“Our results match those of other randomised trials examining different types of cancer, but these were much smaller than our own study, and they have also shown no benefit to using statins in cancer treatment,” said Professor Allan Hackshaw, from Cancer Research UK.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.