NEW ORLEANS – Atorvastatin treatment of patients with lymphoma undergoing treatment with an anthracycline significantly cut the incidence of incident cardiac dysfunction by about two-thirds during 12 months of treatment, in a multicenter, randomized trial with 300 enrolled patients.
“These data support the use of atorvastatin among patients with lymphoma being treated with anthracyclines where prevention of cardiac systolic dysfunction is important,” concluded Tomas G. Neilan, MD, at the joint scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation. He highlighted that an important difference between the new study, STOP-CA, and a major prior study with a neutral effect published in 2022, was that STOP-CA “was powered for a major change” in cardiac function as the study’s primary outcome, a decline from baseline in left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of at least 10% that also reduced ejection fraction to less than 55%.
“We can consider these medications [atorvastatin] for patients at higher risk for cardiac toxicity from anthracyclines, such as patients who receive a higher dose of an anthracycline, older patients, people with obesity, and women, commented Anita Deswal, MD, professor and chair of the department of cardiology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, who was not involved with the study.
A basis for an ‘important discussion’ with patients
“For patients receiving higher doses of anthracyclines, the STOP-CA trial says that whether to start a statin for cardiac protection is now an important discussion” for these patients to have with their treating clinicians. “That was not the case before today,” commented Ronald M. Witteles, MD, a cardiologist and professor who specializes in cardio-oncology at Stanford (Calif.) University.
“For a patient being treated for lymphoma or for another cancer and treated with equal or higher anthracycline doses, such as patients with a sarcoma, this trial’s results at the very least warrant a discussion between physicians and patients to make the decision,” Dr. Witteles, who was not involved in the study, said in an interview. But he also cautioned that “whether an individual patient should take a statin in this scenario is still not a no-brainer. While the trial was positive, it was for an imaging rather than for a clinical endpoint.”
Experts noted that a similar study with the clinical endpoint of heart failure would require both many more randomized patients as well as much longer follow-up. STOP-CA was not powered for this endpoint. During its 12-month duration, a total of 11 patients developed heart failure, with no between group difference.
STOP-CA enrolled adults with lymphoma (Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin) and scheduled to undergo anthracycline treatment at eight U.S. centers and one in Canada, and excluded patients already on statin treatment or those for whom a statin was already indicated. Of the 300 enrolled patients, 286 had 12-month follow-up. Randomization assigned patients to receive either 40 mg daily of atorvastatin or placebo.
Their cumulative, median anthracycline dose was 300 mg/m2, which is typical for treating lymphoma, but higher than the typical dose use for patients with breast cancer. At baseline, average LVEF was 63%, and after 12 months this had declined to 59%. Forty-six of the 286 patients assessed after 12 months fulfilled the primary outcome of at least a 10–percentage point reduction from baseline in their LVEF and a decline in LVEF to less than 55%. Researchers used cardiac MR to assess LVEF at baseline, and in most patients at follow-up, but a minority of patients had their follow-up assessments by echocardiography because of logistical issues. Greater than 90% of patients were adherent to their assigned regimen.
Tripled incidence of cardiac dysfunction in placebo patients
The incidence of this outcome was 9% among the patients who received atorvastatin, and 22% among those on placebo, a significant difference. The calculated odds of the primary outcome was 2.9-fold more likely among the patients treated with placebo, compared with those who received atorvastatin, also a significant difference.
The study’s secondary outcome was patients who had at least a 5% drop from baseline in their LVEF and with a LVEF of less than 55% after 12 months. This outcome occurred in 13% of patients treated with atorvastatin and in 29% of those who received placebo, a significant difference.
The atorvastatin and placebo arms showed no significant differences in adverse events during the study, with roughly similar incidence rates for muscle pain, elevated liver enzymes, and renal failure. None of the enrolled patients developed myositis.
Atorvastatin treatment also produced an expected average 37% decline from baseline in levels of LDL cholesterol.
“This was a well-designed and important trial,” said Dr. Witteles. “Anthracyclines remain a mainstay of cancer therapies for a number of malignancies, such as lymphoma and sarcoma, and the cardiac side effects of development of cardiac dysfunction are unequivocally real.”
The importance of a clinically meaningful effect
The results especially contrast with the findings from the PREVENT study, published in 2022, which compared a daily, 40-mg atorvastatin treatment with placebo in 279 randomized patients with breast cancer and treated for 24 months. However, patients in PREVENT had a cumulative, median anthracycline dose of 240 mg/m2, and the study’s primary outcome was the average change from baseline in LVEF after 24 months of treatment, which was a reduction of 0.08 percentage points in the placebo arm, a nonsignificant difference.
In STOP-CA, the average change in LVEF from baseline was a 1–percentage point reduction in the placebo arm, compared with the atorvastatin-treated patients, a difference that was statistically significant, but “not clinically significant,” said Dr. Neilan, director of the cardio-oncology program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He cited the good fortune of the STOP-CA investigators when they received a recommendation from reviewers early on to design their study to track a clinically meaningful change in LVEF rather than just looking at the average overall change.
Dr. Deswal also noted that it is unlikely that future studies will examine the efficacy of a statin for preventing LVEF in patients across the range of cancers that are eligible for anthracycline treatment. As a result, she predicted that “we may have to extrapolate” the results from STOP-CA to patients with other cancer types.
STOP-CA received no commercial funding. Dr. Neilan has been a consultant for and received fees from Abbvie, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CRC Oncology, Genentech, Roche, and Sanofi, and has received grant funding from AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squib. Dr. Deswal and Dr. Witteles had no relevant disclosures.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.