Statins Show Promise in Reducing Death from Ovarian Cancer

Women with ovarian cancer who take statins to lower their cholesterol have a 40% lower death rate.

“These drugs are appealing as they are widely used, inexpensive, and well tolerated in most patients. The associated reduction in ovarian cancer mortality is promising,” said Dr. Kala Visvanathan, lead researcher of a new study presented last week during the American Association for Cancer Research Virtual Annual Meeting II.

Dr. Visvanathan, professor of epidemiology and oncology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, said all statins reduced the risk of dying, with lipophilic statins such as simvastatin and lovastatin, decreasing the likelihood by an average 43%. The most significant reductions occurred in those with high-grade serous carcinoma (40% reduction in mortality) and endometrioid ovarian cancer (50% reduction.)

The findings are the most comprehensive to date and add support to other, smaller studies showing similar improvements in ovarian cancer mortality from statins.

Most recently, a team of researchers at Australia’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, analyzed 36 studies of several common medications taken by ovarian cancer patient. They concluded statin use showed the most promise. “Statin use is associated with better ovarian cancer survival,” they wrote in an article this month in Gynecologic Oncology, cautioning that, “Further study, preferably a clinical trial, is required.”

At the AACR meeting, Visvanathan said her team reviewed data on 10,062 ovarian cancer patients from the Finnish national cancer registry. 2,621 used statins, and 80% of those used lipophilic statins.

“Our results provide further evidence in support of the clinical evaluation of lipophilic statins as part of the treatment of ovarian cancer,” Visvanathan said.

Ovarian cancer is a rare cancer type, accounting for only about 1.2% of cancer cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Its five year survival rate is less than 50% because of the difficulty of diagnosing it until it has progressed to an advanced stage.

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