Statins May Vex Bladder Cancer Therapy

Study: Stopping Statins During BCG Therapy for Bladder Cancer Might Help

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on December 21, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 21, 2006 -- Some bladder cancer patients may fare better if they're not taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, Belgian doctors say.

Their findings focus only on bladdercancer patients getting immunotherapy with the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine.

BCG is injected into the bladder after the tumor has been removed to reduce the chance of bladder cancer recurrence. Immunotherapy revs up the body's immune system to help fight cancer.

The Belgian doctors included Paul Hoffman, MD, of the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels.

They reviewed the medical records of 84 bladder cancer patients who had gotten BCG immunotherapy.

Nineteen of those patients were taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. They were 70 years old, on average -- seven years older than the average age of the patients not taking statins.

The researchers followed the patients' medical records for nearly four years, on average, after BCG treatment.

During that time, those taking statins weren't more likely to have a bladder cancer recurrence.

But bladder cancer tumors became more aggressive in about half (53%, or 10 patients) of those taking statins, compared with nearly one in five (18%, or 12 patients) in those not taking statins.

The statin takers were also more likely to have their bladders surgically removed.

Eight patients taking statins (42%) had their bladders removed, compared with 9 patients (14%) in those not taking statins.

The study doesn't prove that statins were responsible for those results.

However, "our observations suggest that the discontinuation of statin therapy during BCG immunotherapy might improve the clinical outcome," the researchers write.

If you're taking BCG therapy for bladder cancer and have questions about statin use, consult your doctor before making any changes in your cholesterol treatment.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Hoffman, P. The New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 21, 2006; vol 355: pp 2705-2708. WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Bladder Cancer -- Treatment."

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