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Statins prevent cancer in heart transplant recipients

Statins prevent cancer and reduce death from all causes in heart transplant recipients. The findings were independent of cholesterol levels.
The research was presented at the Heart Failure Congress 2012, 19-22 May, in Belgrade, Serbia. The Congress is the main annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.

Cancer is the leading cause of death late after heart transplantation. Skin cancer is particularly common, but solid organ cancers including colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and lymphoma also occur. The increased rate of cancer in heart transplant recipients may be related to the immune suppression of the patient.

Statins are immunomodulatory drugs and may benefit patients beyond their lipid lowering effects. The current study (abstract P306) investigated the impact of statin therapy on the occurrence of cancer and death from all causes in heart transplantation recipients.

The study included all 255 patients who underwent heart transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland between 1985 and 2007 and were alive after the first year. The primary endpoint was the occurrence of any cancer and the secondary endpoint was overall survival.

During follow up, cancer was diagnosed in 108 patients (42%). Statins reduced the risk of any cancer by 65% (p=0.0001). Eight years after transplantation the cumulative incidence of tumours was 34% in patients not receiving a statin compared to 13% in patients receiving a statin (p=0.003). The benefit persisted at the 10 year (39% vs. 18%) and 12 year follow-up (42% vs. 22%).

Statin use was associated with improved cancer free and overall survival (both p=0.0001). The beneficial effect of statins on preventing cancer and reducing death from all causes was independent of patients' cholesterol levels. This suggests that the benefit of statins was due to their immunomodulatory effects.

Guidelines from the International Society for Heart & Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) recommend giving a statin to patients after heart transplantation to reduce graft atherosclerosis. This study shows that there are additional benefits to following that recommendation.

Lead author Dr Frank Enseleit, deputy director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospital Zurich, says patients can safely begin statin therapy six months after transplantation and they should take the drug for the rest of their lives.

"We have shown that statin therapy prevents cancer in heart transplant recipients and it is known that statins also prevent graft atherosclerosis," he says. "We have to conclude that it should be a lifelong therapy in heart transplant recipients."


"Poster session 1: Heart transplantation" Poster Session – Poster Area
Sunday May 20, 8.30 am to 12.30 am. G M Froehlich, Statins reduce cancer risk and mortality in heart transplant recipients
Authors: ESC Press Office
Tel: +33 (0) 4 92 94 86 27
Fax: +33 (0) 4 92 94 86 69
Notes to editor
For practical information about heart failure aimed at patients, families and caregivers, visit the HFA's Heart Failure Matters website at

Heart Failure2012 is the annual meeting of Heart Failure Association (HFA) a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). HeartFailure2012 takes place 19 to 22 May 2012 at Sava Centar, Belgrad – Serbia. The full scientific programme is accessible here.

About Heart Failure 2012 Registration

Online registration is now closed. On-site registration opens at 14:00 on 18 May.

About the venue

Sava Centar - Congress Culture & Business Center
Milentija Popoviæa 9 St, - 11070 Belgrade, Serbia
Tel: +381 11 220 60 00
Link to the abstract:
Interviews can be arranged through the ESC press office before the event at
Tel +33(0)4 92 94 8627
Contact on site : Celine Colas – ESC Press Office Coordinator - +33 6 22 41 84 92

About the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) represents more than 75,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. Its mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.
About the Heart Failure Association (HFA)

The Heart Failure Association (HFA) is a registered branch of the ESC. Its aim is to improve quality of life and longevity, through better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart failure, including the establishment of networks for its management, education and research.

ESC Press Office | EurekAlert!
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