Pre-clinical and retrospective studies of patients using statins to reduce plasma cholesterol have suggested that statins may be useful to treat cancer. However, prospective clinical trials have yet to demonstrate significant efficacy. We have previously shown that this is in part because a hydrophobic statin with a long half-life is necessary. Pitavastatin, the only statin with this profile, has not undergone clinical evaluation in oncology. The target of pitavastatin, hydroxymethylglutarate coenzyme-A reductase (HMGCR), was found to be over-expressed in all ovarian cancer cell lines examined and upregulated by mutated TP53, a gene commonly altered in ovarian cancer. Pitavastatin-induced apoptosis was blocked by geranylgeraniol and mevalonate, products of the HMGCR pathway, confirming that pitavastatin causes cell death through inhibition of HMGCR. Solvent extracts of human and mouse food were also able to block pitavastatin-induced apoptosis, suggesting diet might influence the outcome of clinical trials. When nude mice were maintained on a diet lacking geranylgeraniol, oral pitavastatin caused regression of Ovcar-4 tumour xenografts. However, when the animal diet was supplemented with geranylgeraniol, pitavastatin failed to prevent tumour growth. This suggests that a diet containing geranylgeraniol can limit the anti-tumour activity of pitavastatin and diet should be controlled in clinical trials of statins.
- dietary geranylgeraniol
- ovarian cancer