Cholesterol-lowering statins may curb the spread of prostate cancer by interfering with the ability of tumour cells to squeeze into bones, UK research has shown.
In laboratory experiments, scientists found that statins helped to stop cancer cells change shape and invade bone marrow.
“We will watch the next stages of the research with great interest”
The same tests highlighted the role of an animal fat compound in attracting prostate cancer to the bones.
Arachidonic acid (AA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid found in meat and fish, is concentrated in the bone marrow and known to promote the spread of prostate cancer.
Scientists conducting the new study discovered that cancer cells exposed to AA became rounder in shape and sprouted projections which helped them squeeze through gaps in surrounding tissue.
Treating the cells with statins prevented them morphing in this way, according to findings published in the British Journal of Cancer.
The drugs targeted a biochemical pathway both linked to AA’s effect on the cells and high cholesterol.
Study leader 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: “Looking for improved ways to treat prostate cancer cells after they leave the gland is one of the key challenges we face in tackling advanced disease.
“Men at that stage of prostate cancer have far too few treatment options, and frankly deserve better,” he 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,” he added.
“We will watch the next stages of the research with great interest.”
- Read the full study paper in the British Journal of Cancer