Calcitriol, a form of vitamin D, had been shown to have limited tumor-fighting powers. New research, however, suggests there may be a way to strip those limits with the hope of one day using the vitamin as a weapon against cancer.
Wei Luo, MD, PhD, a translational research scientist in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and his team designed a study to explore what processes inhibit calcitriol’s ability to put the brakes on tumors.
After screening more than 55,000 compounds from a small-molecule library, the scientists identified four compounds shown to inhibit calcitriol. Then, they analyzed how those compounds behaved in prostate, bladder and kidney cancer cell lines. It turns out, these compounds did suppress calcitriol’s ability to help halt the growth of the cells. The research team believes that blocking the expression of one of these compounds, an enzyme, may be a useful approach for enhancing the antitumor activity of vitamin D, according to a Roswell Park Cancer Institute release about the research that appeared on sciencedaily.com.
"We've known for years that vitamin D has the potential to help counteract and control cancer and sometimes has been shown to do so in the lab, but no one has been able to replicate those results in large clinical studies," says Dr. Luo. "So it's exciting to be able to isolate some of the dynamics that might be helping tumors to evade the anticancer benefits of vitamin D toward the goal of exploiting those processes and maybe learning how to overcome them." The researchers presented their results at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Meeting in New Orleans.
Recently, a landmark study found that older women with higher levels of vitamin D had a 67 percent lower risk of cancer compared with those with low levels.