Public Release: 

Prolonged statin use may lower risk of lung cancer death

American Association for Cancer Research

Bottom Line:

Lung cancer patients who used statins in the year prior to a lung cancer diagnosis or after a lung cancer diagnosis had a reduction in the risk of death from the disease.

Journal in Which the Study was Published: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research

Author:

Chris Cardwell, PhD, a senior lecturer in medical statistics at the Centre for Public Health at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland

Background:

Recently there has been much interest in the potential for exploring new therapeutic uses for existing drugs, in part, because existing medications are relatively inexpensive and have known side effect profiles, according to Cardwell. This study investigated whether lung cancer patients who received statins had improved cancer outcomes.

How the Study Was Conducted: Cardwell and colleagues used data from nearly 14,000 patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer between 1998 and 2009 from English cancer registry data. They gathered the patients' prescription records from the U.K. Clinical Practice Research Datalink and mortality data up to 2012 from the Office of National Statistics.

Results: Among patients who survived at least six months after a diagnosis, those who used statins after a lung cancer diagnosis had a statistically nonsignificant 11 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths. Among those who used at least 12 prescriptions of statins there was a statistically significant 19 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths, and among those who used lipophilic statins such as simvastatin there was a 19 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths as well.

Among all patients in the study, those who used statins in the year before a lung cancer diagnosis had a statistically significant 12 percent reduction in lung cancer-specific deaths.

Cardwell noted that the outcomes were not different between non-small cell lung cancer patients and small cell lung cancer patients in this study.

Author Comment:

In an interview, Cardwell said, "Our study provides some evidence that lung cancer patients who used statins had a reduction in the risk of death from lung cancer. The magnitude of the association was relatively small and, as with all observational studies, there is the possibility of confounding--meaning that simvastatin [a type of statin] users may have differed from simvastatin nonusers in other ways that could have protected them from death from cancer, for which we could not correct. However, this finding is worthy of further investigation in observational studies. If replicated in further observational studies, this would provide evidence in favor of conducting a randomized, controlled trial of simvastatin in lung cancer patients. We hope to conduct a similar analysis in a large cohort of lung cancer patients from Northern Ireland."

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Funding & Disclosures: This study was funded by the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland. Cardwell declares no conflicts of interest.

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About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in 101 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 25 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with almost 19,300 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit http://www.AACR.org.

To interview Chris Cardwell, please contact Claire O'Callaghan at c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk or +44-028-9097-5391. For other inquiries, contact Lauren Riley at lauren.riley@aacr.org or 215-446-7155.

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