Medication commonly used to treat blood cholesterol could be used to treat prostate cancer that has stopped responding to hormone treatment, scientists have found.
A clinical trial with 12 participants found that statins slowed tumour growth when given alongside treatment which reduces hormone levels (androgen deprivation therapy).
The research, conducted by the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, has been welcomed by ex-soldier, John Culling, 64, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in 2019.
The first indication for him was finding he had to go to the toilet during the night.
“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,” he said.
“The diagnosis came as a shock. I was 60 but I had been in the army all my life so was fit.”
Mr Culling received chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment which was successful and is now being monitored, but given the aggressiveness of the cancer, it could return.
The grandfather, who lives in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, said: “The aggressiveness of the prostate cancer I have, means there is a high chance it could come back so it’s a case of waiting and watching.”
Welcoming the research, funded by Cancer Research, Mr Culling says he hopes those who are diagnosed with the disease in the future have “even better outcomes”.
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.”
Larger clinical trials will need to take place to confirm whether statins could be given alongside androgen deprivation therapy to treat prostate cancer more widely.
About 3,800 men in Scotland are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually.
Professor Hing Leung, of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, who led the research, 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.
“Castration-resistant prostate cancer, when cancer becomes resistant to hormone therapy, is currently very difficult to treat. If further trials are successful, we could use these already-approved medicines very quickly to offer patients better options for treatment.
“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.”