STATINS could help beat bowel cancer, experts claim.
The cheap pills, which are commonly used by millions to lower cholesterol, were found to stop tumour growth in lab tests.
Researchers claim the “exciting” breakthrough could help in a quarter of cases, benefiting around 10,000 Brits each year.
Four in five bowel cancers are due to a mutation in the APC gene – which controls how cells grow – triggering the formation of tumours.
Queen Mary University of London scientists tested more than 1,200 already approved drugs on mutant cancer cells.
The team found three statins – Lovostatin, Mevastatin and Simvastatin – all worked to kill off tumours.
Although the cholesterol-busting drugs will not cure the disease, they could help stop the cancer spreading and turning fatal.
Each year 40,000 Brits are diagnosed with bowel cancer, including Sun writer Dame Deborah James.
Lead researcher Dr Sarah Martin from the Centre of Cancer Cell & Molecular Biology at Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL, said: “This is a very exciting development.
“If statins could be used to halt the progression of bowel cancer, that would be very good news for patients.”
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The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology.
Currently, the only treatment for bowel cancer is surgery and chemotherapy, which has toxic side-effects.
Dr Martin added: “If we were able to prescribe statins as an effective treatment for colon cancer, it means patients could probably take them for some time, thus prolonging their life considerably, and their quality of life whilst undergoing treatment would be transformed.
“Statins cannot cure cancer, but we are confident they can reduce the tumour so it does not spread or grow back.”
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Further research is now needed to identify which patients would most benefit.
Lynn Dunn, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Bowel Research UK who helped fund the study, said: “The highly promising results… on statins and bowel cancer are another fantastic validation of our research funding strategy.”
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