Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Professor David Fruman has published a new manuscript in the journal Science Translational Medicine. In the paper, Professor Fruman and colleagues identify an alternative anti-cancer benefit of statins- drugs normally prescribed for treating high cholesterol. Statins had previously been known to block a cellular pathway that many cancers use to potentiate survival. In light of this connection, Professor Fruman and collaborators from the University of Miami and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute studied the effects of statins on several types of blood cancers, including leukemia. The team found that statins can lower the threshold for programmed cell death and work in synergy with other anti-cancer drugs to kill blood cancer cells. In collaboration with the pharmaceutical company AbbVie, the team obtained clinical data indicating that statins improve the outcome of leukemia patients treated with the anti-cancer drug venetoclax.
“There has been considerable interest in repurposing statins for cancer treatment, due to their good safety profile and relatively low cost,” said Professor Fruman. “Our study identifies an effective combination approach in which adding a statin to another anti-cancer drug has potential to improve treatment outcomes in various blood cancers. Since many cancer patients in clinical trials are also taking statins for cholesterol control, we were able to mine data from human clinical trials to support our findings from cell culture and mouse models.”