Statins linked to future breast cancer treatment after key study

Statins, which are used across the UK as a key means of lowering cholesterol, could be used in future as an effective way to treat breast cancer in certain women, a new study has found.

Scientists at Columbia University led by William Freed-Pastor and Carol Prives discovered that there was sufficient evidence to assert that women with breast cancer, who have a certain gene mutation, could take plenty of positives from statin therapy. While they were quick to underline how research was at an early stage to ascertain definitive outcomes, they were nonetheless excited about their findings following months of intensive studies.

In the report published in journal Cell, it was demonstrated that by using statins to treat breast cells carrying mutant p53 genes reduced the chance of invasive growth. It has long been established that p53 usually suppresses cancerous cells, though is known to mutate and result in strange functions that promote cancer formation; this leads to often-invasive growth of cells.

The findings are important as it has been found that over half of all human cancers involve mutations of the p53 gene, according to Columbia scientists. Professor Prives, the university’s biology specialist, said: “The data raises the possibility that we might identify subsets of patients whose tumours may respond to statins. Of course we can’t make any definitive conclusions until we know more. There are great implications, but nothing clinical yet.”

Responses to the report in the UK have been very positive. One respondent was Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, who said: “We’re excited that existing drugs, like statins, are showing potential in the fight against breast cancer. This research identifies a relatively large group of breast cancer patients who could be targeted with statins, though we will need to see the results of clinical trials to know whether this will work.”

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