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Exp Hematol. 2012 Mar;40(3):177-186.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2011.11.008. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Treatment with high-dose simvastatin inhibits geranylgeranylation in AML blast cells in a subset of AML patients.

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Department of Hematology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


It is currently unknown whether the in vitro effects observed with statins in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, including lowering of cholesterol, inhibition of isoprenylation, and sensitization to chemotherapy, also occur in vivo. Therefore, AML mononuclear cells (MNCs) were isolated from 12 patients before and after 7 days of high-dose (7.5-15 mg/kg/day) simvastatin treatment. Parallel mouse studies were performed to have, in addition to AML cells, access to liver tissue, a major target of statins. Serum cholesterol levels were lowered by simvastatin in all patients, however, only limited changes in the messenger RNA expression of cholesterol metabolism genes were seen in patient and mouse MNCs compared to murine liver cells. Still, two out of seven patients displayed an increased in vitro chemosensitivity of their AML cells upon simvastatin treatment. Gene set enrichment analysis on microarray data of AML patient cells and Western blot analysis for the isoprenylated proteins DnaJ and Rap1 on murine and AML patient MNCs demonstrated that in vivo simvastatin treatment resulted in inhibition of geranylgeranylation in murine MNCs and in a subset of patient AML MNCs. In summary, our data demonstrate that simvastatin treatment results in chemosensitization and inhibition of geranylgeranylation in AML cells of a subset of patients.

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