One of the more recent conversations surrounding prostate cancer treatment that we have been hearing involves the use of the anti-cholesterol drugs or statins.   The conversation, whether or not statins might be a good treatment option for men with both localized disease and as an alternative to hormone treatment (ADT) for men with advanced prostate cancer has moved one step closer to being resolved.  A study in the UK has shown that statins could stop prostate cancer from spreading to the bones.

According to the study, statins interfere with the ability of tumor cells to squeeze into the bones by preventing them from changing shape, which is a requirement for the cancer cells to be able to invade the bone.  These findings, which are not yet ready for prime time, could lead to new treatments and protocols that will benefit men with advanced stage prostate cancer.   

Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Prostate cancer spreading to the bones is a major challenge for doctors and unfortunately it’s very difficult to treat…..Altering cholesterol metabolism or blocking the ways in which prostate cancer cells are able to change their shape, and thereby their ability to spread, could lead to major advances in treating men with aggressive forms of the disease.”

The study also reinforced the key role that animal fat might play in attracting prostate cancer to the bones.  Prostate cancer cells exposed to arachidonic acid (AA) became rounder in shape and sprouted projections that helped them squeeze through gaps in surrounding tissue.  Treating cells treated with statins inhibited them from making these changes that might prevent the cancer from invading the bone.

One of the investigators, Professor Noel Clarke, from the University of Manchester, said: “Understanding this process will provide vital clues as to how drugs like statins might benefit certain groups of prostate cancer patients who are more at risk of their cancer spreading.”

Dr. Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, said, “It’s too early to tell conclusive results about the links between cholesterol and advanced prostate cancer from this study but it’s only through research like this that better treatments will be developed. We will watch the next stages of the research with great interest.”  In other words, the efficacy of satins in preventing prostate cancer from spreading to bones is not yet ready for the clinic, but it is very worthy of serious additional research and our continued monitoring for our own personal treatment protocols.

Additionally, statins have previously been linked to protection against a number of other health problems other than high cholesterol, including eye disorders and Alzheimer’s.  Current thinking is that statins help to maintain a healthy supply of blood to the brain as well as blocking an enzyme involved in the production of the ‘bad’ cholesterol that raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.

British Journal of Cancer DOI: 10.1038/bjc, 2014.99; Brown, M et al, Aarchidronic Acid Induction of Rho Mediated Transdothelial Migration in Prostate Cancer

Joel T. Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.