Statins could work as effective treatment for aggressive forms of breast cancer

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Breast cancer will affect one in seven women in their lifetime, but cases remain largely preventable. Around 8,000 women are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer each year, one of the hardest forms of breast cancer to treat. However, researchers believe patients using statins may have a high survival rate from an aggressive form of breast cancer.

A triple-negative breast cancer is a relatively uncommon form of great cancer, which is typically more aggressive and harder to treat than other cancers.

Treatment for such cancers is currently limited to surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Kevin Nead, lead researcher from the University of Texas, said: “There is already a body of literature on statins and breast cancer and the results have been inconsistent.

“Previous research has looked at great cancer as only one disease, but we know there are many subtypes of breast cancer and we wanted to focus our research on this particularly aggressive form of breast cancer that has limited effective treatment options.”

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The cancer is referred to as ‘triple negative’ because it lacks three molecules called receptors which are commonly found in many breast cancer and present helpful targets for drugs to hone in on.

For the study, researchers analysed data from 23,192 women with breast cancer, looking specifically at patients who began using statins in the year following their breast cancer diagnosis.

Among those patients, researchers found up to 58 percent were more likely to survive their breast cancer.

The association between survival and statins was strongest in women with early-stage triple-negative breast cancer taking a high dose of statins.

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Researchers noted that patients taking lipophilic statins – which include atorvastatin, simvastatin, lovastatin and fluvastatin – had higher survival rates overall.

It remains unclear how statins could increase the survival rates of breast cancer patients, but previous studies suggested satin use may decrease heart muscle damage caused during chemotherapy, which could increase overall survival rates in the years following recovery.

Nead added: “We know that statins decrease breast cancer cell division and increase cell death.

“Our study shows that there is an association between statins and improved outcomes in TBNC, and it is time to pursue this idea further in a prospective trial.”

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancers in the UK, with around 55,000 new cases of the disease every year.

The proportion of breast can that can be prevented is estimated to be between 23 percent and 37 percent.

Furthermore, nearly 11,000 people in the UK are estimated to be living with undiagnosed breast cancer, due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Figures showed that the number of people referred for breast cancer checks fell by more than 20,000 in 2020 and 2021 compared to the previous year.

Breast Cancer Now chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan said: “The tragic cost is that in the worst cases, women could die. Women with breast cancer have already paid an unacceptable price due to the pandemic.”

According to the charity, symptoms of breast cancer include:

A lump or swelling in the breast
A change to the skin, such as puckering or dimpling
A change in the colour of the breast – it may look red or inflamed
A nipple chance – it may become pulled in, inverted
Rash or crusting around the nipple
Unusual liquid from either nipple
Changes in size or shape of the breast

Speaking of the need for new ways to treat the disease, doctor Rachael Natrajan, at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “Each year around 8,000 UK women are diagnosed with this aggressive form of cancer [triple-negative breast cancer] and we desperately need new, effective ways to treat them.”

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