Medicine used to treat blood cholesterol could be used to treat prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormone treatment, researchers have found.
Scientists at Glasgow’s Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre observed 12 participants in a clinical trial.
Results showed that statins slow tumour growth when they are given alongside treatment which reduces hormone levels, known as androgen deprivation therapy, although a much larger trial is needed before a decision can be made on clinical effectiveness.
Leader of the research, Professor Hing Leung of Glasgow’s Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute said: “Our study is the first of its kind to show statins having a detectable effect on prostate cancer growth in patients.
“We think statins could stop prostate cancer from making androgens from cholesterol, cutting off a route for cancer to resist androgen deprivation therapy.”
Once cancer stops responding to hormone treatment, and becomes castration-resistant prostate cancer, it is then “very difficult to treat” at present.
If the larger trials are successful, then the approved medicines can be used to quickly offer patients treatment.
He added: “We need to test statins in a larger group of patients over a longer period to fully understand the benefits and risks to patients. But this data gives us hope that we could have some more readily-available treatments for prostate cancer in the future.”
A former soldier, John Culling, 64, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in 2019 and has welcomed the new research.
He told PA: “I wasn’t overly concerned. I was only having to get up once in the night, but I had never had to before, so it was the change that prompted me to get it checked out.
“The diagnosis came as a shock. I was 60 but I had been in the army all my life so was fit.”
Mr Culling, who lives in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, undertook successful chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment and is now being monitored with a risk that his cancer may return due to its aggressive nature.
He said: “Knowing that scientists are working in labs and hospitals conducting research and clinical trials, especially with drugs that are already in use for other conditions, gives me hope both for myself and for future generations.
“Hopefully, research like this means even better outcomes for anyone who might have to go through a diagnosis like mine.”