This statin drug could lower liver cancer risk

In a new study, researchers found that lipophilic statins were linked to strongly reduced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) incidence and mortality.

But a link between hydrophilic statins and reduced risk for HCC was not found.

The research was conducted by a team from Karolinska Institutet and Harvard University.

HCC is the most common type of primary liver cancer. It occurs most often in people with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.

Approximately 500,000 cases of HCC are diagnosed worldwide each year, related primarily to chronic infection with hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus.

In the U.S. and Europe, the incidence of HCC has tripled since the 1970s and mortality is increasing more rapidly for HCC than for any other cancer.

As such, there is an urgent need to identify effective primary prevention strategies.

Whether statin type influences HCC incidence or mortality is unknown.

In the study, the team examined a nationwide Swedish registry of adults with viral hepatitis B or C to assess the link between lipophilic or hydrophilic statin use and HCC incidence and mortality.

They found that compared with a matched group that did not use statins, lipophilic statin use was linked to lower risk for incident HCC, all-cause death, and liver-related death.

The apparent benefits of lipophilic statins were dose and duration-dependent, with the greatest reduction in HCC risk occurring after at least 600 cumulative defined daily doses (the equivalent of taking a moderate-dose statin for approximately 2 years).

A similar link with reduced HCC risk was not found with hydrophilic statin use.

According to the researchers, these findings confirm prior data linking statins with improved survival and reduced HCC risk in chronic liver disease.

They suggest further research is needed to determine whether lipophilic statin therapy is feasible for the prevention of HCC.

The lead author of the study is Tracey G. Simon.

The study is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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