Statins found to have a survival benefit in colorectal cancer



SAN FRANCISCO – Statin use confers a survival benefit in patients with colorectal cancer, suggests a systematic review and meta-analysis presented at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium.

Investigators analyzed data from seven observational studies having a total of 64,773 patients with this cancer, a fifth of whom were using statins. Results showed that statin users had a nearly 30% reduction in the adjusted risk of all-cause mortality relative to nonusers, Dr. Arjun Gupta, the lead investigator, reported in a poster session at the meeting cosponsored by the AGA Institute, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASTRO, and the Society of Surgical Oncology.

“There is a lot of interest in non–cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs that can be used to treat cancer,” he said in an interview. “Thirty percent is a very, very significant number – we use chemotherapy drugs even if they have just a 10% survival benefit. So I am hopeful that this will help people.”

Dr. Arjun Gupta

Dr. Arjun Gupta

Accumulating preclinical data suggest that statins have anticancer actions, inhibiting cell proliferation and angiogenesis, and inducing apoptosis, according to Dr. Gupta, who is a resident in internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Previous studies have shown use to be associated with a decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer, but its impact on established disease has not been well assessed on a large scale.

“This is all observational data. There is no randomized controlled trial that’s been done,” he acknowledged. “But these data certainly seem to point out that this is something we can do. It’s a cheap and easy, safe drug which people take for years on end without any complications.”

At present, statins are approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for lipid-lowering indications, he noted. However, patients with colorectal cancer often have cardiovascular risk factors that make them candidates for statins.

“No one really gets a statin right now for colon cancer. We are just sort of lucky, maybe, that so many people with colon cancer have high cholesterol and are getting these drugs,” Dr. Gupta said. “But hopefully, my dream is 5 years down the line, it will be prescribed to people for this indication.”

Study results showed that in multivariate analyses, patients using statins were 26% less likely to die of any cause (hazard ratio, 0.74). Findings were similar whether they had colon cancer (hazard ratio, 0.79) or rectal cancer (hazard ratio, 0.63).

When analyses were restricted to studies that adjusted for concomitant use of aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, statin users had significantly reduced risks of both all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, 0.74) and colorectal cancer–specific mortality (HR, 0.76), reported Dr. Gupta.

Patients who started using the medications after their cancer diagnosis had a significantly reduced risk of colorectal cancer-specific mortality (HR, 0.70) but not all-cause mortality.

Dr. Gupta disclosed that he had no relevant conflicts of interest.

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