Common Cholesterol Drugs Could Slow Spread Of Breast Cancer To Brain

WBBM Newsradio Staff
June 17, 2020 - 7:59 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A cholesterol drug could help fight cancer.

A new study from the University of Notre Dame shows drugs used to treat high cholesterol could interfere with the way breast cancer cells adapt to the microenvironment in the brain, preventing the cancer from taking hold.

Patients with breast cancer who experience this type of metastasis typically survive for only months after diagnosis.

Notre Dame researchers said statins, a group of drugs commonly prescribed for those with high cholesterol, were shown to interfere with a pathway that allows a cancer cell to recycle cell surface proteins and therefore make it easier for cancer cells to live within the brain.

“It normally takes a decade to develop new medications. Instead of waiting, we can repurpose medications people are already taking,” said Siyuan Zhang, the Dee Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and principal investigator of the study published in Nature Communications. “Statins are relatively safe drugs, and they can even be given, if doctors choose, to try to prevent metastasis.”

To complete the research, Zhang’s lab completed gene profiling to screen for genes that were functionally important in inhibiting the way tumor cells adapted to the brain, Zhang said. Then, they used a fruit fly tumor model to perform a genetic tumor growth screen, allowing the team to quickly narrow down a subset of genes that might be important for tumor formation in the brain.

Zhang’s lab seeks uses of already-FDA-approved drugs to target cancer metastasis because they are already known to be safe, which allows for quicker testing without waiting several years for new therapeutics to be developed and tested.

Funding for the project was provided through an Advancing Basic Cancer Research Grant from the Walther Cancer Foundation, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health.