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Cholesterol Drug May Inhibit Mesothelioma Cancer Cell Growth

MINNEAPOLIS -- Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota may have discovered an effective mesothelioma treatment using a common cholesterol reducing drug.

The researchers -- Jeffrey Rubins, Rodd Greatens, Robert A. Kratzke, Annie T. Tan, Vitaly A. Polunovsky and Peter Bitterman -- said that their research shows that the drug lovastatin reduced the cell viability of mesothelioma.

Lovastatin appeared to reduce mesothelioma cancer viability by inducing apoptosis -- or programmed cell death -- which may provide the basis for adjunctive treatment of patients with the disease, the researchers said in a study published in the May edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM).

Lovastatin is made by Merck, Sharp & Dohme in Rahway, N.J. The drug is a fungal metabolite and has been reported to inhibit cell growth in a number of malignant tumors and normal proliferating cell cultures, the researchers said.

"Our studies suggest that lovastatin, a widely used and well-tolerated pharmaceutical, can substantially inhibit malignant mesothelioma growth and induce tumor-cell apoptosis," the researchers said.

"Importantly, lovastatin appears to have synergistic activity with antimetabolites used against other malignant cells. Taken together with previous reports, our data support further investigation of lovastatin as a potential adjunctive therapy for treatment of this lethal and refractory cancer," according to the researchers.

The study can be found on the AJRCCM Web site.

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