Skip to main content


Higher cholesterol levels “desirable” in patients with kidney cancer

(Vienna, 12th June 2014) Many people are advised to lower their cholesterol levels and therefore the level of fats in their blood in order to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Patients with kidney cancer, however, are advised very differently: higher cholesterol levels among this group promote a longer life expectancy. These are the core findings of a recent study carried out at the University Department of Urology as part of Carmen Leitner's diploma.

“Having a higher cholesterol level would be desirable in this case. Low cholesterol levels are a bad sign for these patients,” says Tobias Klatte. The tumour in the kidney literally scavenges the cholesterol, feeding itself with it and continuing to grow. This is what accounts for the low levels in the blood. Says Klatte: “The aim is therefore to permanently cut off this supply. This might enable us to starve the tumour.”

This retrospective study was able, for the first time, to demonstrate that cholesterol can act as a bio-marker in renal cancer. “And fortunately, it's a known routine marker," says Klatte. “Virtually all people of a certain age know their cholesterol level nowadays.”

Essentially, however, this discovery does not mean that patients' cholesterol level should be artificially raised; instead, the aim is to find a way to starve the tumour of cholesterol and therefore of fats in the blood and possibly stop it in its tracks. At the same time, affected patients could be treated in future with new, supportive therapies to counteract the loss of cholesterol. 

The study, which has just been published in the British Journal of Urology, investigated data from 876 patients with renal cell carcinoma before they started treatment. Researchers observed the group over a period of 52 months. The lower cholesterol was associated with advanced tumour stages and a higher degree of metastasis of the cancer. Patients with a higher cholesterol level had a 43 percent lower risk of dying of kidney cancer than patients with low levels.

Service: British Journal of Urology

“Preoperative serum cholesterol is an independent prognostic factor for patients with renal cell carcinoma.” Michela de Martino, Carmen V. Leitner, Christoph Seemann, Sebastian L. Hofbauer, Ilaria Lucca, Andrea Haitel, Shahrokh F. Shariat, and Tobias Klatte. BJU International; Published Online: June 12, 2014 (DOI: 10.1111/bju.12767).

» Article in British Journal of Urology