Statins found to enhance efficacy of chemotherapy drug in blood cancers

A team of researchers with members affiliated with several institutions in the U.S. has found that some statins could enhance the efficacy of a chemotherapy drug used to fight blood cancers in mouse models. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes their study of statins used with the chemotherapy drug venetoclax and what they found.

Statins are a group of drugs that are administered to patients to reduce fats in the blood. They are typically used to reduce levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, fats associated with heart attacks and strokes. In this new effort, the researchers found that they might also be useful for treating some blood cancers.

Prior research has shown that statins promote apoptosis (natural cell death) in some types of cancers—a finding that suggests they might be useful for treating those forms of cancer. In their work, the researchers found that the statin simvastatin enhanced the efficacy of venetoclax in fighting chronic lymphocytic leukemia in mouse models. It helped, they discovered, by increasing apoptosis signaling in cancer cells, resulting in less lymphoma. The result was an increase in survival times. They note also that they found stronger results than if either drug were administered alone.

Emboldened by their findings, the researchers looked at data from three prior clinical trials involving testing venetoclax for use in treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia. They specifically sought out data regarding patients who had also been given statins to reduce fats in the blood. They found that those patients saw a better response against their cancer than those who did not take the statin. They noted also that such patients were 2.7 times more likely to see complete remission.

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