Cholesterol-lowering drugs also may protect stem cell transplant patients from GVHD

December 04, 2009

SEATTLE - Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are among the most prescribed medicines in the U.S. Now a new study by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center indicates that statins may protect stem cell transplant patients from one of the most serious complications of the life-saving cancer therapy: graft-versus-host disease, or GVHD. The findings are reported in the Nov. 4 first edition of the journal Blood.

In a retrospective study of 567 patients who underwent hematopoietic cell transplantation from matched sibling donors between 2001 and 2007, patients whose donors had been taking statins at the time of stem cell donation experienced no severe acute GVHD. About 15 percent of the stem cell donors in the study were taking statins at the time of transplant.

Normally, between 10 percent and 15 percent of transplant patients would be expected to develop severe acute GVHD, according to the study's senior author Marco Mielcarek, M.D., an assistant member of the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division.

No such protection from severe acute GVHD was observed if only the patient was taking a statin, according to the study. There was some indication that protection against severe GVHD was even stronger when both patient and donor had been on statin medications, however the number of patients in this group was too small to be statistically significant.

The researchers also found that only those transplant patients with statin-treated donors who received cyclosporine-based immunosuppression therapy after transplantation were protected from severe GVHD. Patients with statin-treated donors who received a similar drug, tacrolimus, did not experience the same GVHD-protection. The study also found that the greatest statin protection occurred against severe GVHD of the gastrointestinal tract.

GVHD is a common side effect in patients who receive blood stem cell transplants from related or unrelated donors. It occurs when the transplanted cells recognize the recipient's tissues as foreign and attack the tissues. This can cause a variety of problems, including skin rashes, diarrhea and liver inflammation. Acute GVHD often occurs in the first three months after a transplant and can lead to mortality as high as 50 percent if it is severe. It can be deadly because patients require more immunosuppressive drugs to treat it, which can trigger a cascade of complications such as secondary infections.

Mielcarek, first author Marcello Rotta, M.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division, and colleagues undertook the study because previous research showed that statins have anti-inflammatory effects and have been found to improve control of other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, studies using mouse models of stem cell transplantation have shown protection against lethal acute GVHD when the donors and recipients had been treated with statins before transplant.

The exact mechanism of how statins protect against GVHD is not known.

"In the literature, a multitude of possible mechanisms are discussed by which statins may influence immune function," Mielcarek said. "One is cell adhesion - the stickiness of cells that influences how donor T cells that cause GVHD can migrate to certain target tissues. Another is how statins interfere with intracellular signaling in T cells. Statins may dampen the activity of allo-reactive T cells and prevent them from initiating the inflammatory cascade that's required to cause GVHD."

Grants from the National Institutes of Health and The Dana Foundation funded this research.
-end-
Note for media only: To obtain a copy of the Blood paper, "Donor Statin Treatment Protects Against Severe Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease After Related Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation," please contact Dean Forbes at 206-667-2896 or dforbes@fhcrc.org

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit fhcrc.org.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Related Statins Articles from Brightsurf:

Being in treatment with statins reduces COVID-19 mortality by 22% to 25%
A research by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and Pere Virgili Institut (IISPV) led by LluĂ­s Masana has found that people who are being treated with statins have a 22% to 25% lower risk of dying from COVID-19.

Twitter data research reveals more about what patients think about statins
More than one in seven people taking statins -- prescribed to lower cholesterol levels -- believed that meant they could still eat unhealthy foods, a new study shows.

Statins starve cancer cells to death
More than 35 million Americans take statin drugs daily to lower their blood cholesterol levels.

Statins linked to higher diabetes risk
Individuals who take cholesterol-lowering statins may be at higher risk for developing high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and eventually type 2 diabetes, according to an analysis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Statins could protect against motor neurone disease
High cholesterol has been found to be a possible risk factor for the development of motor neurone disease (MND), according to a large study of genetic data led in the UK by Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the USA.

Statins are more effective for those who follow the Mediterranean diet
For those who have already had a heart attack or a stroke, the combination of statins and Mediterranean Diet appears to be the most effective choice to reduce the risk of mortality, especially from cardiovascular causes.

Statins have low risk of side effects
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are associated with a low risk of side effects.

Statins overprescribed for primary prevention
Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, or statins, as a preventive measure can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Many older adults do not take prescribed statins properly
In a British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology study of older adults prescribed statins, first-year nonadherence and discontinuation rates were high.

Statins show little promise for conditions other than heart disease
Medicines commonly prescribed to reduce people's risk of heart attack may have limited use for treating other diseases, research suggests.

Read More: Statins News and Statins 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.