Public Release: 

Vitamin D Inhibits Prostate Cancer Growth In Animal, Find University Of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Researchers

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

San Diego, April 10 -- Vitamin D significantly inhibits highly metastatic, or widespread, prostate cancer in animals, suggesting that it has important potential for treating men with similar advanced disease. "This is the first evidence that vitamin D can effectively treat an animal with advanced prostate cancer that spreads to the bone, similar to what happens in men affected with this disease," said Ben Light, M.D., a researcher with the UPCI's Experimental Therapeutics Program who presented these findings April 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In their study, the UPCI research team implanted highly metastatic prostate tumors into rats and treated them with vitamin D (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol). After 3 weeks of therapy, tumors in treated rats were 88 percent smaller than those in control rats which received tumors but were not treated. In addition, the treated rats had 75 percent fewer lung metastases, and these metastases were 85 percent smaller than those seen in untreated controls.

UPCI scientists were the first to describe vitamin D's anti-cancer effects in this prostate model. Past epidemiologic studies by UPCI investigators and others have shown that old age, black race, and residence in northern latitudes -- known risk factors for prostate cancer -- all correlate with low blood levels of vitamin D. Recently, they have shown that vitamin D may be involved in the growth and differentiation of the normal prostate. Vitamin D binds to cancer cells and triggers either cancer cell death or the transformation of cancer cells into more benign, less malignant cells.

UPCI clinical investigators are currently incorporating vitamin D in early clinical studies for advanced prostate cancer as well as other tumors.

Other investigators involved in the research include Candace Johnson, Ph.D., Robert Getzenberg, Ph.D., and Donald Trump, M.D.

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