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Effect of simvastatin on castration-resistant prostate cancer cells

Jenny Hanbi Kim1, Michael E Cox2 and Kishor M Wasan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2405 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

2 Department of Urologic Sciences, The Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, 2660 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:56  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-56

Published: 26 March 2014



In castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), recent evidence has demonstrated the persistence of the intratumoral androgens. The multi-step androgen synthesis pathway originates from cholesterol, which can be obtained by cells from several major sources including intracellular synthesis through an enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR). The inhibition of this enzyme by the use of statins has been investigated in prostate cancer as a possible therapeutic target for blocking the de novo androgen synthesis resulting in decreased tumor growth. However, the effectiveness of statins in CRPC has not been investigated.


Castration-resistant C4-2 and androgen-sensitive LNCaP cells were treated with Simvastatin for 48 hours. Dose-dependent responses to Simvastatin were analyzed using cell proliferation and cytotoxicity assays. Cellular growth curve was generated using haemocytometer. HMGCR activity was assessed using 14C-acetic acid detected by thin layer chromatography, and the protein expression was quantified using western blot analysis. Intracellular cholesterol and prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels were quantified using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA).


Significant decrease in cell viability and growth curve observed at 75 μM of Simvastatin compared to no treatment group in the castration-resistant C4-2 cells. HMGCR activity was significantly decreased up to 50% and 70% at 50 μM and 75 μM of Simvastatin respectively compared to the vehicle control in C4-2 cells. Simvastatin did not affect the protein expression. 80% decrease in the amount of total intracellular cholesterol levels was observed in 75 μM Simvastatin treatment group compared to vehicle control. PSA secretion levels were significantly reduced in the C4-2 cell line at 50 μM and 75 μM of Simvastatin compared to vehicle control.


The inhibition of HMGCR via Simvastatin lowered the viability of castration-resistant C4-2 cells. Simvastatin’s ability to limit the endogenous supply of cholesterol contributes to the effects seen in cell viability.

Simvastatin; Castration-resistant prostate cancer; HMGCR; Cholesterol synthesis