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Statins Lower Risk of Clots in Cancer Patients

Study found those who took them were less likely to get venous thromboembolism

MONDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A class of drugs widely used to lower cholesterol may have a future in preventing blood clots in patients with breast, lung, colon and other solid-organ cancers.

Research from scientists at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that cancer patients taking statins had a lower incidence of clots than did patients not taking the medications.

But experts cautioned that the results, which were expected to be presented at the American College of Chest Physicians' annual meeting in Philadelphia, are not yet ready for prime time.

Even the researchers noted the preliminary nature of the findings.

Study author Dr. Danai Khemasuwan called the discovery "thought-provoking," but added that randomized, controlled studies are needed before the results can be applied in the clinical arena.

Experts agreed with that analysis.

"This preliminary analysis is interesting, but far from confirmatory," said Dr. Carl "Chip" Lavie Jr., medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention director of the stress testing laboratory at Ochsner Heart & Vascular Institute in New Orleans. "Statins could improve endothelial function, and this could reduce the chance of venous thrombosis. Conceivably, statins could have some benefits on clotting factors. It is known that statins can have platelet effects, but this should help arterial thrombosis and would not be expected to help venous thrombosis."

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition that includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as well as pulmonary embolism, or potentially fatal clots in the lung.

DVT is strongly linked to prolonged immobility, such as sitting in a plane for hours, but can strike anyone and, in fact, afflicts some 2 million Americans each year.

Statins are the class of drugs which include such well-known names as Zocor (simvastatin) and Lipitor (atorvastatin).

In addition to lowering cholesterol, researchers are looking into whether statins may lower the risk of certain types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer's.

The authors of this paper reviewed medical records for 740 patients admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of breast, lung, colon, prostate, stomach, esophagus, pancreas, ovarian, kidney or brain cancer between October 2004 and September 2007.

Eight percent of patients who had been taking statins developed a VTE, compared with 21 percent in the control group (consisting of those individuals who had never used statins or who had only used them for less than two months).

The same results held true even after adjusting for smoking, metastatic disease, current chemotherapy, immobilization (a risk factor for DVT) and use of aspirin.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on deep vein thrombosis.

SOURCES: Carl "Chip" Lavie Jr., M.D., medical director, cardiac rehabilitation and prevention director, stress testing laboratory, Ochsner Heart & Vascular Institute, New Orleans; Danai Khemasuwan, M.D., Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia; Oct. 27, 2008, presentation, American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting, Philadelphia

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