Source: Journal of geriatric oncology
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Can statins improve survival in older patients with rectal cancer?
In a nutshell
This study investigated whether statins (medication used to lower the cholesterol levels) improve survival of patients with rectal cancer. Researchers suggested that statins improved survival, particularly in older patients.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US. The standard treatment is radiation therapy and chemotherapy followed by surgery. This treatment is of limited effectiveness in some cases and is associated with high levels of side effects. For this reason, in the US, older patients commonly receive shorter courses of this treatment. The addition of new drugs to the treatment may help to improve the treatment and decreasing its negative side effects.
Statins are a group of drugs used for treating high cholesterol levels. These include drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) or simvastatin (Zocor). It has been shown that statins also have an anti-tumor effect by stopping tumor cells from growing. However, in rectal cancer the results are inconclusive.
Methods & findings
This study included information about 465 patients with rectal cancer. 227 patients were under the age of 70 (younger group) and 238 were 70 years of age or older (older group).
Patients in the older group using statin at the time of diagnosis had a 38% improvement in the odds of a better overall survival. They also had an 82% improvement in the odds of a better disease-free survival (survival without signs or symptoms of cancer). Statin use was also associated with a lower risk of cancer coming back in other tissues and organs. This was not seen in the younger group.
In the older group, patients who underwent short course radiation therapy and received statins had a better survival. This was not observed in the younger group.
The bottom line
This study concluded that statins are associated with a better survival of older patients with rectal cancer.
The fine print
This study only measured statins taken at the time of diagnosis. It did not take into account the dose or duration of statin use. Further studies are needed to confirm the impact on statin use on rectal cancer outcomes.
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