Besides known to treat high cholesterol, statins can also be used to take care of rapid weight loss, weakness and wasting of the body due to cancer, Brazilian researchers have found. The condition known as cachexia, or wasting syndrome, is common among patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart failure and AIDS.
A process of adipose tissue remodelling known as browning occurs in patients with cachexia and that browning significantly contributes to the rapid loss of weight and fat, according to researchers from the University of Mogi das Cruzes (UMC) in Brazil.
In experiments on mice, the team identified a key protein TLR4 (toll-like receptor 4) in this process and showed that “atorvastatin” — a class of statins — can attenuate its effects.
Treatment with atorvastatin proved effective in extending survival, attenuating adipose tissue remodelling and reducing tumour growth (by 49.7 per cent) in comparison with a control group not treated with the drug. “We showed that atorvastatin had a direct effect on the action of TLR4, which inhibited adipose tissue browning and reduced tumour growth,” said lead author Miguel Luiz Batista Junior, professor at the varsity.
In the study, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, the team induced lung cancer in genetically modified mice (without TLR4) and in control wild-type mice (with TLR4). “Adipose tissue was less altered in the genetically modified mice without TLR4. In other words, lack of the receptor significantly blocked the adipose tissue browning effect,” Miguel said.
But, in mice treated with atorvastatin, the result was even better than that in genetically modified mice without TLR4.