Statins May Impede Growth of Uterine Fibroids

Mostafa Borahay, MD, FACOG Assistant Professor, Director of Simulation Education Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology University of Texas Medical Interview with:
Mostafa Borahay, MD, FACOG
Assistant Professor, Director of Simulation Education
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
University of Texas Medical BranchCo-director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery University of Texas Medical Branch

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Borahay: Uterine fibroids are the most common type of tumor in the female reproductive system, accounting for half of the 600,000 hysterectomies done annually in the U.S. Their estimated annual cost is up to $34 billion in the U.S. alone. Despite this, the exact cause of these tumors is not well understood, as there are several genetic, familial and hormonal abnormalities linked with their development. Even more, we currently don’t have a satisfactory medical treatment for these tumors.

Our team investigated the impact of simvastatin on human uterine fibroid cell growth. Statins, such as simvastatin, are commonly prescribed to lower high cholesterol levels. Statins work by blocking an early step in cholesterol production. Beyond these well-known cholesterol-lowering abilities, statins also combat certain tumors. Statins have previously been shown to have anti-tumor effects on breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, leukemia and lung cancers. However, the effect of statins on uterine fibroids was unknown.

We found that simvastatin impedes the growth of uterine fibroid tumor cells. We also studied the way simvastatin works to suppress these tumors. Simvastatin was shown to inhibit ERK phosphorylation, which is a critical step in the molecular pathway that prompts the growth of new cells. In addition, simvastatin stops the progression of tumor cells that have already begun to grow and induces calcium-dependent cell death mechanisms in fibroid tumor cells. Therefore, we identified a novel pathway by which simvastatin induces the death of uterine fibroid tumor cells.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Borahay: It might be a bit early to give recommendations for clinicians and patients. We expect that female users of statins to have lower incidence of uterine fibroids. This is the first study to demonstrate this effect on fibroid tumor cells. We recently completed another study examining the effects of statins in an animal model of uterine fibroids. The results of this new study will be presented to scientists and researchers in the coming few days and we expect to publish it soon. After these studies, and human studies are completed, then we can translate these novel findings to clinical practice.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Borahay: Our research team is currently working on developing methods to selectively deliver high doses of the statins to the fibroid tumors. This includes adopting nanotechnology and developing a medicated intra-uterine device to locally deliver the statin. We are also planning to perform clinical trials to examine effects of statins on patients with uterine fibroids. Statins have been in clinical use for years so their safety profile is well known, which gives the findings of our research special clinical significance.


Simvastatin Potently Induces Calcium-Dependent Apoptosis of Human Leiomyoma Cell
Mostafa A. Borahay, Gokhan S. Kilic, Chandrasekha Yallampalli, Russel R. Snyder, Gary D.V. Hankins, Ayman Al-Hendy, and Darren Boehning

Biol. Chem. jbc.M114.583575. First Published on October 30, 2014, doi:10.1074/jbc.M114.583575