Molecular Markers Articles

Statins and Cancer Prevention

March 17, 2006

In the December 2005 issue of Nature Reviews Cancer, MD Anderson researcher, Scott Lippman, M.D., and co-authors report that statins, known primarily for lowering cholesterol and preventing cardiovascular disease, may also have cancer prevention potential.

When large randomized controlled trials analyzed the effects of statins on cardiovascular disease, simultaneous safety monitoring addressed whether statins would increase cancer incidence and cancer mortality. Ironically, the opposite effect was shown. These results were the first to suggest that statins can prevent cancer.

The independent effects of statins on lymphocyte-function-associated antigen 1 (LFA1) are thought to contribute to potential cancer prevention. In addition, work in preclinical models of colorectal and breast cancer and melanoma indicates that statin anticancer effects involve the inhibition of geranylgeranylation, primarily of Rho proteins. And, secondary results in randomized controlled trials for cardiovascular disease have shown strong potential for preventing colorectal cancer and melanoma.

Current research is revealing new statin targets which will lead to the development of more specifically targeted agents for cancer prevention. 

MD Anderson Cancer Center Leads with Cancer Genome Pilot Projects

December 14, 2005

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute, announced today a joint project with the National Cancer Institute to fund a $100 million pilot project to unravel the genetic makeup of cancer, calling it the Cancer Genome Atlas. A genetic map of cancer cells will advance the development of targeted drugs for treatment as well as the molecular-imaging tools for cancer prevention efforts. The story has called attention to the promise held by targeted therapies for individualizing cancer treatment, making it more effective and less toxic for each patient.

In part because of the foresight of MD Anderson’s leadership and the support of donors for the initiative to fund targeted therapy research done by the McCombs Institute, investigators at MD Anderson stand prepared to participate in the $100 million project when tapped. Researchers at the Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers are already involved in a “pre-pilot” program studying tissue samples from lung cancer patients in depth and in a separate project to study several tumor lineages in a proof on concept study.

These studies are being done in collaboration with the Genome Center at Baylor College of Medicine, and with researchers at the Broad Institute in Boston, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, and Washington University in St. Louis. Separately, the Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers researchers have been working with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, San Francisco to prepare a response to the Cancer Genome Atlas.

The Cancer Genome Atlas project is not without controversy among scientists. When asked why it’s important for MD Anderson to participate in pilot projects for such a large-scale undertaking, Gordon Mills, M.D., director of the Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers, states,

“You do the pilot because it allows you to analyze the data and determine whether it’s worthwhile to go forward with a full project, whether the technology is appropriate and whether the yield warrants the investment.” Mills adds another important reason for helping to move the research forward. “The results will be made rapidly available to investigators worldwide, thus creating maximum opportunities for findings to be translated into real hope for patients everywhere.”

Leading the way with vision and outstanding science has been a hallmark of MD Anderson Cancer Center for more than 60 years. With donations to the McCombs Institute through the South Campus Research Initiative, private donors continue to make it possible for researchers to build a case for federal funding as they do the basic research that demonstrates promise and uncompromising quality of effort.