Recently there has been an increasing interest in exploring new therapeutic uses of existing drugs, in part, because existing medications are relatively inexpensive and have known side effect profiles. Statins is a class of drugs often prescribed to help lower the blood cholesterol levels. Scientists have now discovered that prolonged use of statins may reduce the risk of death from lung cancer.
The study investigated whether lung cancer patients who received statins had improved cancer outcomes. Researchers used data from nearly 14,000 patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer between 1998 and 2009 from English cancer registry data.
Among patients who survived at least six months after a diagnosis, those who used statins after a lung cancer diagnosis had a statistically non-significant 11% reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths. Among those who used at least 12 prescriptions of statins there was a statistically significant 19% reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths, and among those who used lipophilic statins such as simvastatin there was a 19% reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths as well. Among all patients in the study, those who used statins in the year before a lung cancer diagnosis had a statistically significant 12% reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths.
Author Chris Cardwell from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland said, "The outcomes were not different between non-small cell lung cancer patients and small cell lung cancer patients in this study. The study provided some evidence that lung cancer patients who used statins had a reduction in the risk of death from lung cancer. The magnitude of the association was relatively small and, as with all observational studies, there was the possibility of confounding, meaning that simvastatin users may have differed from simvastatin non-users in other ways that could have protected them from death from cancer, for which they could not correct."
The study appears in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.