Cholesterol has many critical functions in cells. It is a key component of membranes and cell-signalling processes, and it functions as a chemical precursor in several biochemical pathways, such as Vitamin D and steroid synthesis. Cholesterol has also been implicated in the development and progression of various cancers, in which it is thought to promote cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is an example of a lipid-avid cancer that relies on lipid metabolism, rather than glycolysis, to fuel cell proliferation. However, data regarding the role of cholesterol in CLL are conflicting. Studies have shown that dyslipidaemia is more common among CLL patients than age-matched healthy controls, and that CLL patients who take cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, appear to have improved survival rates. Therefore, defining the roles of cholesterol in CLL may highlight the importance of monitoring and managing hyperlipidaemia as part of the routine management of patients with CLL. In this review, we discuss the roles of cholesterol in the context of CLL by examining the literature concerning the trafficking, uptake, endogenous synthesis, and intracellular handling of this lipid. Data from clinical trials investigating various classes of cholesterol and lipid-lowering drugs in CLL are also discussed.
- chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)