Statin-induced metabolic reprogramming in head and neck cancer: a biomarker for targeting monocarboxylate transporters

Manal Mehibel, Fernando Ortiz-martinez, Nadine Voelxen, Amy Boyers, Amy Chadwick, Brian A. Telfer, Wolfgang Mueller-klieser, Catharine M. West, Susan E. Critchlow, Kaye J. Williams, Ian J. Stratford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prognosis of HPV negative head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients remains poor despite surgical and medical advances and inadequacy of predictive and prognostic biomarkers in this type of cancer highlights one of the challenges to successful therapy. Statins, widely used for the treatment of hyperlipidaemia, have been shown to possess anti-tumour effects which were partly attributed to their ability to interfere with metabolic pathways essential in the survival of cancer cells. Here, we have investigated the effect of statins on the metabolic modulation of HNSCC cancers with a vision to predict a personalised anticancer therapy. Although, treatment of tumour-bearing mice with simvastatin did not affect tumour growth, pre-treatment for 2 weeks prior to tumour injection, inhibited tumour growth resulting in strongly increased survival. This was associated with increased expression of the monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) and a significant reduction in tumour lactate content, suggesting a possible reliance of these tumours on oxidative phosphorylation for survival. Since MCT1 is responsible for the uptake of mitochondrial fuels into the cells, we reasoned that inhibiting it would be beneficial. Interestingly, combination of simvastatin with AZD3965 (MCT1 inhibitor) led to further tumour growth delay as compared to monotherapies, without signs of toxicity. In clinical biopsies, prediagnostic statin therapy was associated with a significantly higher MCT1 expression and was not of prognostic value following conventional chemo-radiotherapy. These findings provide a rationale to investigate the clinical effectiveness of MCT1 inhibition in patients with HNSCC who have been taking lipophilic statins prior to diagnosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16804
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date14 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


Dive into the research topics of 'Statin-induced metabolic reprogramming in head and neck cancer: a biomarker for targeting monocarboxylate transporters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this