A team of researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, have found that patients suffering from inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) can benefit from conjugating radiation treatments with simvastatin, a drug commonly used to treat high cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, examined simvastatin radiosensitization of different types of breast cancer cell lines in vitro to understand the therapeutic benefits of statins in controlling postmastectomy radiation (PMRT) in IBC patients.
“Our study showed for the first time that simvastatin combined with radiation improved the local recurrence-free survival rate of women with IBC, an aggressive variant of breast cancer with a dismal prognosis,” said senior author Wendy Woodward, M.D., Ph.D. in a press release.
Surviving breast cancer stem cells that develop resistance towards radiation and chemotherapy may be the underlying basis of IBC’s tendency to metastasize. As such, a compound that can effectively radiosensitize these resistant cells is of extreme importance to prevent cancer recurrence.
A recent study from Danish scientists renewed the interest in the capacity of statins to affect breast cancer — “Our curiosity was piqued by the Denmark study and we also began looking at statins and found they seemed to improve survival in IBC patients. In this latest study, we took it a step further by examining the medical records of 519 women with stage III IBC who had undergone radiation treatment after mastectomy, comparing those who were taking simvastatin at the time of radiation with those who weren’t,” said Dr. Lacerda in a recent press release.
From the total patients using statins, only 11% had a local recurrence of cancer when compared to 24% of the non-statin using group, demonstrating the compound potential to sensitize tumors to radiation therapy.
Statins have been used for a long time to treat hypercholesterolemia, and their capacity to improve disease outcomes in breast cancer patients has been known for a while. Furthermore, their safe toxicity profile alongside low commercial cost make them the perfect candidates for accessible adjuvant use in radiotherapy.
“Our data suggest that clinical trials combining simvastatin with radiation therapy for IBC patients should definitely be the next step,” added Dr. Woodward.
Additional authors of this all-MD Anderson study entitled “Simvastatin radiosensitizes differentiated and stem-like breast cancer cell lines and is associated with improved local control in inflammatory breast cancer patients treated with postmastectomy radiation” include Lara Lacerda, Jay P. Reddy, Diane Lu, Richard Larson, Li Li, Hiroko Masuda, Takae Brewer, Bisrat G. Debeb, Wei Xu, Gabriel N- Hortobágyi, Thomas A. Buchholz and Naoto T. Ueno.