Commonly Prescribed Statins May Lower Mortality in High-Risk Prostate Cancer Patients

Commonly prescribed medications, cholesterol-lowering statins and the diabetes therapy metformin may have anticancer effects, according to preliminary research published in Cancer Medicine.

“Both metformin and statins have been associated with longer life in prostate cancer patients, yet because they are commonly prescribed together, no study we know of has looked at these two medications separately,” says senior author Grace Lu-Yao, PhD, associate director of Population Science at the  Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center–Jefferson Health in a press release.

To conduct this study, researchers used Epidemiology and End Results (SEER-18) database linked with Medicare files. The researchers evaluated patients diagnosed with cancer from 2007 through to 2011. Based on 12,700 patients, the researchers observed that statins alone or in combination with metformin was significantly associated with reduced mortality from all causes.

Dr. Lu-Yao and colleagues saw the highest average survival of 3.9 months in men who took both metformin and statins, 3.6 with statins alone and 3.1 years with metformin alone. The median survival for those who did not use either drug was also 3.1 years. “With respect to prostate mortality, metformin plus statin was associated with a 36% reduction in risk of death followed by statins alone,” says Dr. Lu-Yao. “Those taking metformin alone were relatively rare, and there was no significant association with all-cause mortality.”

“Our study showed that the effects were more pronounced in patients taking statins after the diagnosis of prostate cancer, 54% reduction in PCA mortality among patients with high-risk prostate cancer,” says Lu-Yao. “This magnitude of reduction is comparable to the results of men treated with androgen signaling inhibitors.” Statins are relatively inexpensive with good safety records. Further studies to understand the mechanisms of the observed association and its potential clinical utility are warranted.