Efficacy and safety profile of statins in patients with cancer: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

John P. Thomas, Yoon K. Loke, Leo Alexandre

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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PURPOSE: A growing body of preclinical and observational research suggests that statins have potential as a therapeutic strategy in patients with cancer. This systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in patients with solid tumours aimed to determine the efficacy of statin therapy on mortality outcomes, their safety profile and the risk of bias of included studies.

METHODS: Full-text articles comparing statin therapy versus control in solid tumours and reporting mortality outcomes were identified from Medline and Embase from conception to February 2020. A systematic review with qualitative (primarily) and quantitative synthesis was conducted. This systematic review was prospectively registered (Prospero registration CRD42018116364).

RESULTS: Eleven trials of 2165 patients were included. Primary tumour sites investigated included lung, colorectal, gastro-oesophageal, pancreatic and liver. Most trials recruited patients with advanced malignancy and used sub-maximal statin doses for relatively short durations. Aside from one trial which demonstrated benefit with allocation to pravastatin 40 mg in hepatocellular carcinoma, the remaining ten trials did not demonstrate efficacy with statins. The pooled hazard ratio for all-cause mortality with allocation to pravastatin in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in two trials was 0.69 (95% confidence interval CI 0.30-1.61). Study estimates were imprecise. There were no clinically important differences in statin-related adverse events between groups. Overall, included trials were deemed low risk of bias.

CONCLUSION: The trial evidence is not sufficiently robust to confirm or refute the efficacy and safety of statins in patients with solid malignant tumours. Study and patient characteristics may explain this uncertainty. The potential role of high-dose statins in adjuvant settings deserves further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639-1651
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number12
Early online date28 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Adverse effects
  • Cancer
  • Clinical trials
  • HMG-CoA
  • Statin

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