Oncotarget 2013 Dec;4(12):2288-301
Beyond their ability to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis, the statins have pleiotropic effects that include anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities. Statins could have clinical utility, alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutics, in the treatment of cancer. The mechanisms that underlie the anti-tumor activity of the statins are nonetheless poorly defined. No studies have analyzed how they alter the tumor-associated leukocyte infiltrate, a central factor that influences tumor stroma and cancer evolution. Here we used HER2/neu transgenic (Tg-neu) mice to analyze the effect of lovastatin (Lov) on the inflammatory reaction of spontaneous mammary tumors. Lov treatment of tumor-bearing Tg-neu mice did not alter growth of established tumors, but significantly reduced the number of new oncogenic lesions in these mice. Moreover, Lov inhibited the growth of newly implanted Tg-neu tumors in immunocompetent but not in immunodeficient mice. We found that Lov enhanced tumor infiltration by effector T cells, and reduced the number of immunosuppressive and pro-angiogenic M2-like tumor-associated macrophages (TAM). Concomitantly, the drug improved the structure and function of the tumor vasculature, measured as enhanced tumor oxygenation and penetration of cytotoxic drugs. Microarray analysis identified a Lov-elicited genetic program in Tg-neu tumors that might explain these effects; we observed Lov-induced downregulation of placental growth factor, which triggers aberrant angiogenesis and M2-like TAM polarization. Our results identify a role for lovastatin in the shaping and re-education of the inflammatory infiltrate in tumors, with functional consequences in angiogenesis and antitumor immunity.