Statins linked to improved survival in rare breast cancers

Drugs

Statins, the commonly used drug to lower cholesterol, can improve progression-free survival in patients with a rare type of breast cancer, a new study has claimed.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare type of breast cancer that develops quickly when malignant cells block lymph vessels in the skin and soft tissue. It accounts for only 1-5 per cent of all invasive breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center wanted to see if the anti-inflammatory properties of statins could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

"We decided to take a different approach with the smaller population of inflammatory breast cancer patients and see if it's truly an inflammatory disease, whether or not there's some substantial impact of statin use in this population," researcher Naoto T Ueno said in a statement.

Researchers reviewed 724 patients diagnosed and treated for stage III inflammatory breast cancer at MD Anderson between 1995 and 2011.

Patients with records indicating statin use at the time of diagnosis were compared to those who were not taking statins. In total, the stage III group contained 74 statin users and 650 non-users.

Researchers compared the clinical outcomes of those in the statin group based on the type of statin, lipophilic (fat-soluble) or hydrophilic (water-soluble), an important distinction as differences in survival emerged throughout the trial.

The primary end-point was progression-free survival (PFS), while secondary end-points measured overall survival (OS) and disease-specific survival (DSS).

Patients with no record of statin use had 1.76 years DFS, while patients who took lipophilic statins saw improved survival rates of 2.47 years. The greatest improvement in survival was noted in patients with past hydrophilic statin use at 4.88 years.

Increased survival rates also extended to the DSS end-point. Patients with no statin use measured a DSS of 4.52 years, while hydrophilic patients measured 5.10 years.

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