Statins are potential anticancerous agents (review)

Oncol Rep. 2015 Mar;33(3):1019-39. doi: 10.3892/or.2015.3741. Epub 2015 Jan 20.


Statins are inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), which is a rate-limiting enzyme in the mevalonate pathway. The pleiotropic effects of statins may be mediated by the inhibition of downstream products such as small GTP-binding proteins, Rho, Ras and Rac whose localization and function are dependent on isoprenylation. Preclinical studies of statins in different cancer cell lines and animal models showed antiproliferative, pro‑apoptotic and anti-invasive effects. Notably, statins showed targeted action in cancerous cell lines compared to normal cells. Previous studies have also shown the synergistic effects of statins with chemotherapeutic agents and radiotherapy. This effect of statins was also observed in chemotherapeutic-resistant tumors. Statins were reported to sensitize the cells to radiation by arresting them in the late G1 phase of the cell cycle. Similarly, population-based studies also demonstrated a chemopreventive and survival benefit of statins in various types of cancers. However, this benefit has yet to be proven in clinical trials. The inter-individual variation in response to statins may be contributed to many genetic and non-genetic factors, including single-nucleotide polymorphisms in HMGCR gene and the overexpression of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1, which was reported to reduce HMGCR enzyme activity. However, more studies with large phase III randomized controlled trials in cancer patients should be conducted to establish the effect of stains in cancer prevention and treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors