Immunotherapy for refractory mutant cancer with hyperlipidemia drug Statin

A team of researchers led by Kim In-san, head of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) Theragnosis Research Group, and Cho Yong-beom, a professor at Samsung Medical Center, revealed a mechanism that can apply statin, a widely used treatment for hyperlipidemia, to the treatment of impregnable KRAS mutant cancer.

Third-generation anticancer immunotherapy, a method of removing cancer using our body’s immune system, has shown remarkable clinical effects, giving hope to many researchers and patients. In the case of anticancer immunotherapy, memory immunity to cancer occurs and the anticancer effect continues without damage to normal cells, so the course of treatment is very good and there are few side effects. However, there is also a limitation in that only patients with an average of less than 30% show therapeutic effects due to complexity such as frequent mutations in cancer. KRAS mutant cancer, which accounts for about a quarter of all cancers, is known to have a very poor prognosis in cancer patients due to still few treatment options, despite attempts to develop various treatments including anti-cancer immunotherapy.

The researchers administered anticancer drugs and statins intravenously to tumor animal models. As a result, statins selectively killed KRAS mutant cancer and released various signals that could activate surrounding immune cells. Immune cells in the body selectively attacked cancer by effectively capturing new antigens from cancer cells and activating T cells. Furthermore, statins also showed anticancer immunotherapy efficacy by changing the cancer immune environment that is resistant to existing chemotherapy.

The researchers were able to induce immunogenic death of cancer cells by allowing statins, which are already used in clinical practice, to activate the body’s immune system to recognize and remember KRAS mutant cancer as enemies. This overcomes the limitations of existing anti-cancer immunotherapy drugs, and it is expected that statins will be used as the next-generation anti-cancer immunotherapy in the future.

Source:, Press release by KIST dated August 24th, 2021

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