Differential interactions between statins and P-glycoprotein: implications for exploiting statins as anticancer agents

Int J Cancer. 2010 Dec 15;127(12):2936-48. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25295.


Statins, prescribed for decades to control cholesterol, have more recently been shown to have promising anticancer activity. Statins induce tumor-selective apoptosis by inhibiting the mevalonate (MVA) pathway. In addition, we have recently demonstrated that lovastatin modulates drug accumulation in a MVA-independent manner in multidrug-resistant (MDR) tumor cells overexpressing the P-glycoprotein (P-gp) multidrug transporter. P-gp-mediated drug efflux can contribute to chemotherapy failure. However, direct statin-mediated inhibition of P-gp in human MDR tumor cells at clinically achievable concentrations remains unexplored. An understanding of these interactions is crucial, both to appreciate differences in the anticancer potential of different statins and to safely and effectively integrate statins into traditional chemotherapy regimens that include P-gp substrates. Here we evaluate interactions between 4 statins (lovastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin and rosuvastatin) and P-gp, at both the molecular level using purified P-gp and at the cellular level using human MDR tumor cells. Lovastatin bound directly to purified P-gp with high affinity and increased doxorubicin accumulation in MDR tumor cells, potentiating DNA damage, growth arrest and apoptosis. By contrast, while atorvastatin inhibited substrate transport by purified P-gp in proteoliposomes, it had no effect on doxorubicin transport in MDR tumor cells. Finally, fluvastatin and rosuvastatin only interacted with P-gp in vitro at high concentrations and did not inhibit doxorubicin transport in MDR cells. These differential interactions should be considered when combining statins with traditional chemotherapeutic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Atorvastatin
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fluorobenzenes / pharmacology
  • Fluvastatin
  • Heptanoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • Lovastatin / pharmacology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Pyrroles / pharmacology
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Fluorobenzenes
  • Heptanoic Acids
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Indoles
  • Pyrimidines
  • Pyrroles
  • Sulfonamides
  • Fluvastatin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium
  • Lovastatin
  • Atorvastatin