"Comparing complications for many anti-cancer treatments, these drugs generally would be very safe," Ennis said. (Celebrex, a cox-2 inhibitor, is the only drug in this class still on the market in the United States; two others, Vioxx and Bextra, were withdrawn because of safety issues).
In the study, the investigators first cultured prostate tumors in mice, then added in either Lipitor or Celebrex, and then the combination of the two drugs.
All three approaches inhibited cancer growth. Interestingly, however, the combination of Lipitor and Celebrex at lower doses than when given individually resulted in a greater effect, the team found.
"It had a pretty substantial effect with this combination," said study senior author Allan Conney, director of the Susan Lehman Komen Laboratory for Cancer Research at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy of Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J.
"We're hoping that this can be extrapolated to humans," Conney added. "There's a need to do a clinical trial on this combination of Lipitor and Celebrex to see if it can prolong the time that it takes to convert the androgen-dependent tumors to androgen-independent tumors, which are the more severe kind."
As of now, it's unclear why Lipitor and Celebrex are having this effect on prostate tumors.
Ennis doubted it was a cholesterol issue. "Statins as a group must have another effect beyond lowering cholesterol," he said. "They're known to have some anti-inflammatory effects but what they're doing to cancer isn't known yet. Once we figure that out, we may be able to develop better drugs that do the same thing."
"That's very exciting but not yet eno
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