Boston, Mass. - A cholesterol-lowering drug reduced the enlarged prostates of hamsters to the same extent as a drug commonly used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), report researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and their colleagues in the October issue of the Journal of Urology. Together, the drugs worked even better.
"We don't know the mechanism, but the results suggest to us that lowering cholesterol has the potential to reduce BPH in men," says senior author Keith Solomon, PhD, a biochemist, and member of the departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Urology at Children's. "This brings up the possibility that other cholesterol lowering therapies, including exercise and diet, may prevent BPH from developing."
For unknown reasons, about half of men older than 50 (and 80 percent of men aged 80) develop BPH, most often evident as enlargement of the prostate. BPH leads to difficult urination, urgency, pain, and other symptoms that can cause significant reduction in the quality of life. In advanced stages, BPH can lead to renal failure. Standard medical and surgical treatments typically target the prostate and usually result in a reduction of symptoms but not without significant side effects in some men, Solomon said.
The study implicates circulating cholesterol in the progression of the condition and suggests a potential new strategy for prevention and treatment. The latest findings emerge from experiments with a strain of Syrian hamsters that undergo prostate enlargement naturally.
Led by first author Kristine Pelton, the team tested ezetimibe, an FDA-approved hypercholesterolemic drug (Zetia; Merck) against finasteride (Proscar, Propecia; Merck), a standard therapy for the treatment of BPH. Ezetimibe reduced prostatic enlargement in aged hamsters as effectively as finasteride and combining the two drugs worked better than either one alone.
In an unexpected finding, pathologist and co-author Dolores Di Vizio
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Children's Hospital Boston