Statin use may prevent hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with chronic liver disease.
Statins are commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol and reduce the cardiovascular risks associated with high LDL cholesterol. Another benefit of the drug is its low cost due to the abundance of generics on the market.
In a new study published by the American Journal of Physiology — Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, the authors discovered that statins were able to reduce liver inflammation and treat other factors related to chronic liver disease.
Lowering cholesterol can positively impact chronic liver disorders, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and in biliary conditions.
In the current study, the authors reviewed more than 50 prior studies. They found that statins reduced inflammatory molecules that are elevated in liver disease. Statin use was also linked to reduced inflammation in the cells that line the blood vessels, according to the study.
Additionally, the investigators discovered that statin use was associated with decreased fibrosis, which is common among patients with liver diseases and can progress, eventually leading to cancer.
Fatty liver was less common among statin users, and the spread of hepatitis C virus was observed to be slowed or stopped in these patients, according to the study.
The authors discovered that statin use improved portal hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the liver.
Importantly, they found that statins increased the death of liver cancer cells, and reduced the risk of developing the cancer in the first place, according to the study. Preventing cancer in this population can significantly reduce healthcare spending, while improving quality of life.
Patients with severe liver disease may progress to liver failure and require a liver transplant or they may develop hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Improving the prognosis of these patients is important for improving outcomes and reducing costs.
If additional studies show that statins can reduce the risk of disease progression and cancer, treatment guidelines may be improved. Patients would also receive the benefit of lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and related events.
“Statins are costeffective, generally well tolerated by patients and the benefits of statin treatment in most patients outweigh their potential hepatotoxic risk. Especially in
patients with severe chronic liver injury and high risk of CVD, statin treatment is very promising since it not only prevents the development of CVD but also could help to
prevent the progression of liver fibrosis to cirrhosis and HCC with all the concomitant complications,” the authors concluded. “Therefore, reasons for statins use in chronic liver diseases are more convincing than reasons against, rendering statin treatment a definite advantage.”