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Statin Use Doesn't Inhibit Lymphoma Drug Therapy

Cholesterol-lowering meds may actually help patients on rituximab, study suggests

TUESDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs don't interfere with rituximab, a medication used to treat lymphomas, say Mayo Clinic researchers, who also found that statins may actually slow progression of some kinds of lymphomas.

Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody often used alone or in conjunction with chemotherapy to treat lymphomas -- cancers of the lymph system. A study published earlier this year suggested that statins may inhibit rituximab's ability to bind to CD20, a protein found on lymphoma cells.

"That finding raised questions about maintaining or stopping cholesterol treatment with statins for patients with lymphoma," Mayo hematologist Dr. Grzegorz Nowakowski said in a clinic news release. "One in five lymphoma patients take cholesterol-lowering statins. This corresponds to the potential for thousands of patients at risk of getting less or ineffective treatment due to statin interference with therapy."

To clarify the issue, the Mayo team studied 228 patients with aggressive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and 293 patients with slowly progressive follicular lymphoma. Twenty-two percent of the patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and 19 percent of patients with follicular lymphoma were taking statins when they began treatment for their lymphoma.

Statin use didn't influence outcomes for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Among the patients with follicular lymphoma, those taking statins actually had better outcomes. At two years, 80 percent of follicular lymphoma patients taking statins had no progression or re-treatment for their cancer, compared with 69 percent of patients not taking statins. This positive effect was observed regardless of the type of treatment: observation only; rituximab alone; or rituximab in combination with chemotherapy.

The study was expected to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, in San Francisco.

"These results can provide reassurance to oncologists and their patients that statins will not reduce the effectiveness of rituximab (brand name Rituxan) and may in fact improve outcomes of some patients with lymphomas," Nowakowski said.

More information

The Lymphoma Research Foundation has more about lymphoma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Dec. 8, 2008

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