One man’s cholesterol-lowering drug may soon be another woman’s breast cancer treatment. A report from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center demonstrated the efficacy of a statin (specifically, simvastatin) combined with radiation therapy in treating stubborn inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).
“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,” stated Wendy Woodward, MD, PhD, who was principal investigator on the study published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 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” in a news article from Virtual Strategy Magazine.
Dr. Woodward’s team of researchers was interested in statin use with breast cancer due to a large retrospective study from Denmark. “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,” began Lara Lacerda, PharmD, PhD, lead author of the study at MD Anderson. Seemingly, statins mitigate IBC stem cell resistance to treatment by inhibiting two proteins involved in tumor formation.
“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,” continued Dr. Lacerda. According to the team’s report, 53 of the patients used a statin, and actuarial three-year local recurrence-free survival was higher in the group of statin users.
Inflammatory breast cancer is stubborn due to its tendency to metastasize. It can spread to different parts of the body and form tumors likely due to migrating cancer stem cells that survive radiation and chemotherapy. Simvastatin, and potentially other statins, may reduce this resistance to treatment.
Thinking ahead to the future, Dr. Woodward stated, “Our data suggest that clinical trials combining simvastatin with radiation therapy for IBC patients should definitely be the next step.” Anthony Atala, MD, editor of the publishing journal, might support this notion, stating, “This study suggests a potential new therapeutic strategy to reduce the recurrence of certain breast cancers.”