Lowering cholesterol can stop cancer spread: Researchers

Making changes to your diet to lower your cholesterol levels could be a key to long-term survival after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

According to Cancer Australia, last year in Australia more than 16,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Around four per cent of those will have metastatic (stage 4) cancer and more than 60 per cent of these men do not survive five years after their diagnosis.

But research from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, published in Lifelab magazine, shows that lowering cholesterol could be the key to neutralising cancer spread and extending life expectancy for prostate patients.

Researchers made the discovery after identifying a change in a protein found in people with advanced prostate cancer. The hnRNPK protein is released from prostate cancer cells in little bundles called exosomes to prepare other parts of the body for cancer spread.

Read: Prostate cancer warning signs

“The exosomes act like a pre-planting conditioner that makes the environment in the new parts of the body receptive to the cancer cells when they eventually reach the site,” says Harley Robinson, PhD student and co-lead of the study.

The research team found lowering cholesterol can help stop this protein from leaving the prostate in the first place, greatly reducing the threat of cancer spread. While prostate cancer that remains localised is highly treatable, survival rates for advanced prostate cancer are much worse.

“Our lab work showed that reducing the cholesterol levels or boosting omega-3 levels in the cells could stop the hnRNPK message from leaving the cancer cell and spreading its dangerous message.”

High cholesterol is generally caused by eating too many foods containing saturated fats and trans-fats. This includes all your greasy battered takeaway items as well as red meat and dairy.

Read: The diet that’s best for weight loss and cholesterol

Not eating enough foods containing the healthy ‘dietary fats’ such as omega-3 also contributes to your high cholesterol levels. Healthy fats reduce your body’s ability to absorb cholesterol, so health professionals recommend an increased intake of nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish and vegetable oils.

The research team is now developing a blood test to measure levels of the hnRNPK protein in the blood, which could identify patients who may need to be given cholesterol-reducing drugs to prevent their cancer spreading.

“We are hopeful a blood test using this biomarker would allow doctors to identify patients who should be given repurposed cholesterol-lowering drugs to prevent cancer spread, but also detect patients who are unlikely to have problems with metastases and therefore could safely avoid additional, morbid treatments,” says study co-lead Associate Professor Michelle Hill.

The QIMR Berghofer study follows data released by researchers in the UK on the revolutionary new prostate cancer drug talazoparib, showing it can slow the progression of the initial prostate cancer.

Read: 50 new anti-cancer drugs found

The UK research showed talazoparib could delay prostate cancer disease progression by an average of 11.2 months and in some cases even stop tumour growth completely.

Talazoparib is undergoing phase 2 clinical trials in Australia for use in prostate cancer treatment.

Have you or anyone you love been diagnosed with prostate cancer? Have you made any changes to your diet after your diagnosis? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer



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