Cholesterol-lowering drugs may also lower PSA, but whether they cut cancer risk is still not known

October 28, 2008

DURHAM, N.C. -- Popular cholesterol-busting drugs -- statins -- appear to lower men's PSA values along with their cholesterol levels, according to researchers in the Duke Prostate Center and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. But whether the drugs prevent prostate cancer growth or just mask it is not known yet.

"Previous studies had shown that men taking statins were less likely to develop advanced forms of prostate cancer but no one had looked at the relationship between the drugs and prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, a biomarker that is correlated with cancer growth and is the most common prostate cancer screening tool," said Stephen Freedland, M.D., a urologist at Duke and senior investigator on the study. "Our study represents a move to understand if and how statins influence prostate biology and whether they are really reducing cancer risk, or simply making PSA a less effective screening tool."

The study was published in the October 28, 2008 issue Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The research was funded by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, The United States Department of Defense and the American Urological Association Foundation's Astellas Rising Star in Urology Award, given to Freedland.

The researchers reviewed the medical records of 1214 men who were prescribed statins between 1990 and 2006 at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Men with prostate cancer were excluded from the study.

They found that PSA levels declined by an average of about four percent after starting statins, compared to no decline in the year before starting the statins, Freedland said. Bigger declines occurred in men who took higher doses of statins and who had the largest decreases in cholesterol levels. Also, the higher the PSA levels were initially, the more they were seen to decline, Freedland said.

"This is important because we had some men who started with PSA levels that looked to be headed in the direction of a recommended biopsy to look for prostate cancer, but they weren't there quite yet," said Robert Hamilton, M.D., a urologist at the University of Toronto, who served as this study's lead investigator while he was a research fellow at Duke. "In a good proportion of these men, the PSA levels declined sufficiently to a point where physicians might not recommend a biopsy, so it's really important that we understand what's at work here, so we can be sure we're not missing cancers because of deceptively low PSA levels."

"Our next step will be to further investigate the interplay between statins and prostate biology to determine whether their effect on PSA corresponds to, or is independent of, cancer growth," Freedland said. "Depending on the outcomes, this could have big public health implications, whether we need to change the way we screen men who are taking statins or we are able to harness the mechanism by which statins work to reduce risk or even treat cancer."

Statins were the most commonly prescribed class of drugs in the United States in 2007 and they work by blocking the production of a critical enzyme the body needs to make cholesterol. There are several types of cholesterol found in the blood; when the level of so-called "bad" cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein (LDL) is too high and concentrations of "good" cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL) too low, it can lead to cardiovascular disease.
-end-
Other researchers involved in this study include Kenneth Goldberg of the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Duke; and Elizabeth Platz, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Duke University Medical Center

Related Prostate Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Low risk of cancer spread on active surveillance for early prostate cancer
Men undergoing active surveillance for prostate cancer have very low rates - one percent or less - of cancer spread (metastases) or death from prostate cancer, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Urology®, an Official Journal of the American Urological Association (AUA).

ESMO 2020: Breast cancer drug set to transform prostate cancer treatment
A drug used to treat breast and ovarian cancer can extend the lives of some men with prostate cancer and should become a new standard treatment for the disease, concludes a major trial which is set to change clinical practice.

Major trial shows breast cancer drug can hit prostate cancer Achilles heel
A drug already licensed for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers is more effective than targeted hormone therapy at keeping cancer in check in some men with advanced prostate cancer, a major clinical trial reports.

The Lancet: Prostate cancer study finds molecular imaging could transform management of patients with aggressive cancer
Results from a randomised controlled trial involving 300 prostate cancer patients find that a molecular imaging technique is more accurate than conventional medical imaging and recommends the scans be introduced into routine clinical practice.

Common genetic defect in prostate cancer inspires path to new anti-cancer drugs
Researchers found that, in prostate cancer, a mutation leading to the loss of one allele of a tumor suppressor gene known as PPP2R2A is enough to worsen a tumor caused by other mutations.

First prostate cancer therapy to target genes delays cancer progression
For the first time, prostate cancer has been treated based on the genetic makeup of the cancer, resulting in delayed disease progression, delayed time to pain progression, and potentially extending lives in patients with advanced, metastatic prostate cancer, reports a large phase 3 trial.

Men taking medications for enlarged prostate face delays in prostate cancer diagnosis
University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that men treated with medications for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) experienced a two-year delay in diagnosis of their prostate cancer and were twice as likely to have advanced disease upon diagnosis.

CNIO researchers confirm links between aggressive prostate cancer and hereditary breast cancer
The study has potential implications for families with members suffering from these types of tumours who are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

Distinguishing fatal prostate cancer from 'manageable' cancer now possible
Scientists at the University of York have found a way of distinguishing between fatal prostate cancer and manageable cancer, which could reduce unnecessary surgeries and radiotherapy.

Researchers find prostate cancer drug byproduct can fuel cancer cells
A genetic anomaly in certain men with prostate cancer may impact their response to common drugs used to treat the disease, according to new research at Cleveland Clinic.

Read More: Prostate Cancer News and Prostate Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.