Research has found cholesterol-lowering drugs could be used to help treat breast cancer that is resistance to hormone therapy.
A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, found breast cancer cells that are resistant to tamoxifen contain significantly higher amounts of cholesterol than those which are not.
Scientists suggest widely available statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol levels, may be useful in reducing cholesterol in patients with tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer.
Researchers believe the tumours are shielded against the effects of tamoxifen because cholesterol forms tougher cell membranes, creating an impenetrable wall for drugs such as tamoxifen. The scientists also think it changes a cell's energy centre, making it harder for the cells to die.
It is hoped the findings can be used to develop new agents to control excessive production of cholesterol by breast cancer cells and develop new treatments to help kill tumours.
Dr Rebecca Riggins, from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, said: "High levels of mitochondrial cholesterol can delay or block cell death.
"This is important because many cancer drugs, including tamoxifen, have been shown to induce breast cancer cell death through the mitochondria."