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Lipitor-Celebrex: Curb Prostate Cancer?

Animal Study Shows Drug Combination May Slow Prostate Tumors; Human Trials Are Planned
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 14, 2008 (San Diego) -- A one-two punch from the popular painkiller Celebrex and the common cholesterol-lowering statin drug Lipitor may curb the growth of early prostate tumors, a study shows.

The study was conducted on mice, not men.

"The drugs prevented the transition of early cancer to a more aggressive and potentially fatal stage," says researcher Xi Zheng, MD, PhD, assistant research professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

The results are so encouraging that a study of men with prostate cancer is already planned, he tells WebMD.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the U.S., with 186,320 new cases estimated to be diagnosed in 2008, according to the American Cancer Society.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

AACR President Raymond Dubois, MD, a cancer specialist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says the results are "very exciting," suggesting a new approach for preventing the progression of prostate cancer.

"This a kind of a dream team," he tells WebMD, referring to the fact that Lipitor and Celebrex are already taken by hundreds of thousands of people for high cholesterol and arthritis, respectively.

But, Dubois cautions, it's way too soon to recommend that people take these drugs for the purpose of controlling cancer.

Celebrex, Lipitor Inhibit Tumor Growth

Zheng says the new research built on earlier work showing that Celebrex and Lipitor both inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in tissue samples.

The new study involved mice with early prostate tumors that are dependent on male hormones called androgen to grow. At this stage, prostate cancer is highly curable.

The mice were deprived of androgen, and the tumors shrank.

Then the mice were divided into four groups: one got Celebrex, one got Lipitor, one got both drugs, and one got neither drug.

Tumors started to regrow in the mice that didn't get any drug treatment almost immediately. In contrast, all three drug approaches slowed the growth of new tumors.

The combination of Celebrex and Lipitor had the greatest effect -- and at lower doses than when administered separately.

"The combination had a bigger and safer effect than either drug alone," Zheng says. The ultimate goal, he says, will be to prevent early treatable androgen-dependent tumors from turning into more deadly androgen-dependent tumors.

"Once a cancer becomes dependent on androgen, treatment often becomes ineffective and the cancer cells become more aggressive," he says.

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