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Statins Could Inhibit a Pathway Linked to Cancer Development

— June 12, 2024

The discovery that statins may block inflammation involved in cancer development marks a significant advancement in cancer research.

In a groundbreaking study, researchers from the Massachusetts General Cancer Center, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, have uncovered that statins, widely known as cholesterol-lowering drugs, may play a crucial role in blocking a specific inflammation pathway implicated in cancer development. These findings, recently published in Nature Communications, offer a new perspective on the potential of statins beyond their cardiovascular benefits.

The study was led by Dr. Shawn Demehri, a principal investigator at the Center for Cancer Immunology and Cutaneous Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Demehri emphasized the global significance of chronic inflammation as a major cause of cancer. He noted that their research aimed to understand the mechanisms by which environmental toxins trigger chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer in the skin and pancreas. Additionally, the team sought to identify safe and effective therapies to block this pathway, thereby suppressing chronic inflammation and its cancerous consequences.

To achieve these insights, Dr. Demehri and his colleagues employed a multi-layered approach that included cell lines, animal models, human tissue samples, and epidemiological data. Their cell-based experiments revealed that exposure to environmental toxins, such as allergens and chemical irritants, activates two interconnected signaling pathways: TLR3/4 and TBK1-IRF3. This activation results in the production of interleukin-33 (IL-33), a protein that stimulates inflammation in the skin and pancreas, potentially leading to cancer development.

A significant breakthrough occurred when the researchers screened a library of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs. They discovered that pitavastatin, a statin, effectively suppresses IL-33 expression by inhibiting the activation of the TBK1-IRF3 signaling pathway. In mouse models, pitavastatin successfully suppressed inflammation induced by environmental factors in the skin and pancreas and prevented the onset of inflammation-related pancreatic cancers.

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The study also included an analysis of human pancreas tissue samples, revealing that IL-33 was over-expressed in patients with chronic pancreatitis (inflammation) and pancreatic cancer compared to normal pancreatic tissue. Furthermore, the researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of electronic health records data from over 200 million people across North America and Europe. The results demonstrated a significant association between the use of pitavastatin and a reduced risk of chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

These findings highlight the potential of pitavastatin as a preventive strategy against chronic inflammation and its subsequent progression to cancer. By blocking IL-33 production, pitavastatin may offer a safe and effective means to mitigate the risk of inflammation-induced cancers. Dr. Demehri and his team believe that their research opens new avenues for cancer prevention and highlights the importance of targeting inflammation pathways in the fight against cancer.

As the medical community continues to explore the hidden roles of statins, this study contributes to a growing body of evidence supporting their potential beyond cholesterol management. The implications of these findings could lead to novel therapeutic approaches, offering hope for patients at risk of inflammation-related cancers.

The discovery that statins may block an inflammation pathway involved in cancer development marks a significant advancement in cancer research. The work led by Dr. Demehri and his team at Massachusetts General Cancer Center highlights the innovative approaches being taken to combat cancer at its roots. By targeting the mechanisms underlying chronic inflammation, researchers are paving the way for new preventive strategies that could significantly impact cancer incidence and patient outcomes worldwide.

As further research unfolds, the potential applications of these findings could revolutionize our approach to cancer prevention and treatment, offering new hope for millions of people affected by this devastating disease.


Statins may block an inflammation pathway involved in the development of cancer

Statin prevents cancer development in chronic inflammation by blocking interleukin 33 expression

Statin prevents cancer development in chronic inflammation

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