Cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol (pravastatin) may lowerradiation-induced side-effects, according to a study presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology 2016 Annual Meeting. Researchers found using pravachol before radiation therapy significantly reduces radiation-induced toxicity in a mouse model with mesothelioma.

The three primary treatment options for mesothelioma patients are chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Although radiation therapy has similar survival rates compared with surgery and chemo, toxicity in healthy tissue still remains a factor.

Pravachol, approved by the FDA, is an inhibibor of the HMG-CoA reductase protein, designed to reduce cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals. In previous studies, Pravachol had shown to decrease the radiation-induced inflammatory outbreaks by acting on the endothelial cells – the cells lining blood vessels.

For the new study, the researchers used mouse model to determine if Pravachol had radioprotective effects.

At the start of the study, normal mice were tested to confront the Pravachol’s radio-protective effects. The researchers then divided the mice in into 2 groups. Both groups were given Pravachol in their drinking water 24 hours and four hours prior to irradiation. First group received Pravachol prior to the radiation therapy, and the second group received only radiation therapy without the prior medication.

After the radiation, survival of cells in the intestinal crypt and cell death in the intestine was investigated by the team. They found that the Pravachol treatment nearly doubled the number of viable crypts in all 3 parts of the intestine – duodenum, jejunum and ileum. The most significant increase of viable crypts – from 6.41 to 15.44 – was seen in the ileum.

Pravachol treatment also reduced cell death. In the duodenum, jejunum and ileum, the cell death index was 0.19, 0.23, and 0.28 in the control group, whereas it was 0.08, 0.10, and 0.10, respectively in the Pravachol group. In all parts of the intestine, the difference was statistically significant.

When comparing the lungs of the two groups of mice after irradiation, the team also found less radiation-induced cell death and DNA damage in the Pravachol group compared to the control group.

Researchers also found that Pravachol didn’t affect mesothelioma tumor growth in a mouse mesothelioma model.

Indeed, they believe that Pravachol, by lowering the toxicity levels of radiation therapy, may increase its therapeutic outlet.

Participating in clinical trials will provide mesothelioma patients access to experimental therapies and help scientists find a cure for the disease.