Finally: A missing link between vitamin D and prostate cancer

October 22, 2014
Micrograph showing prostatic acinar adenocarcinoma (the most common form of prostate cancer) Credit: Wikipedia

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study recently published in the journal Prostate offers compelling evidence that inflammation may be the link between Vitamin D and prostate cancer. Specifically, the study shows that the gene GDF-15, known to be upregulated by Vitamin D, is notably absent in samples of human prostate cancer driven by inflammation.

"When you take Vitamin D and put it on cells, it inhibits their growth. But it hasn't been proven as an anti-cancer agent. We wanted to understand what genes Vitamin D is turning on or off in prostate cancer to offer new targets," says James R. Lambert, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and associate research professor in the CU School of Medicine Department of Pathology.

Since demonstrating that Vitamin D upregulates the expression of GDF-15, Lambert and colleagues, including Scott Lucia, MD, wondered if this gene might be a mechanism through which Vitamin D works in prostate cancer. Initially it seemed as if the answer was no.

"We thought there might be high levels of GDF-15 in normal tissue and low levels in prostate cancer, but we found that in a large cohort of human samples, expression of GDF-15 did not track with either normal or cancerous prostate tissue," Lambert says.

But then the team noticed an interesting pattern: GDF-15 was uniformly low in samples of prostate tissue that contained inflammation.

"Inflammation is thought to drive many cancers including prostate, gastric and colon. Therefore, GDF-15 may be a good thing in keeping prostate tissue healthy – it suppresses inflammation, which is a bad actor potentially driving prostate cancer," Lambert says.

The study used a sophisticated computer algorithm to analyze immunohistochemical (IHC) data, a task that in previous studies had been done somewhat subjectively by pathologists. With this new technique, Lambert, Lucia and colleagues were able to quantify the expression of the GDF-15 protein and inflammatory cells by IHC staining on slides taken from these human prostate samples.

Additionally encouraging is that the gene GDF-15 was shown to suppress inflammation by inhibiting another target, NFkB. This target, NFkB, has been the focus of many previous studies in which it has been shown to promote and contribute to tumor formation and growth; however, researchers have previously been unable to drug NFkB to decrease its tumor-promoting behavior.

"There's been a lot of work on inhibiting NFkB," says Lambert. "Now from this starting point of Vitamin D in prostate cancer, we've come a long way toward understanding how we might use GDF-15 to target NFkB, which may have implications in cancer types far beyond prostate."

Explore further: Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Related Stories

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

April 18, 2014

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Aspirin may lower the risk for aggressive prostate cancer

September 30, 2014

Use of aspirin and/or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) was associated with a reduced risk for aggressive prostate cancer in men who had elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) and a negative biopsy prior ...

Vitamin D deficiency linked to aggressive prostate cancer

May 1, 2014

African-American and European-American men at high risk of prostate cancer have greater odds of being diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease if they have a vitamin D deficiency, according to a new study from Northwestern ...

Recommended for you

Ancient stress response provides clues to cancer resistance

April 25, 2017

Cancer is often able to craftily outwit the best techniques modern medicine has developed to treat it. In an attempt to understand and combat cancer's vaunted prowess, an unusual collaboration between physicists and a leading ...

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
not rated yet Oct 23, 2014
Interesting. There are so MANY substances that can cause chronic inflammation, including substances produced by our enteric biota.
DonGateley
not rated yet Oct 23, 2014
@Tadchem: and inflammation is being implicated in so many health problems. Is there a prophylactic anti-inflammatory that is well tolerated?
MP3Car
5 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2014
@DonGateley,

"...new [2003] found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases."

That is from US patent 6630507, US Government HHS is assignee. Yes, the USG has a patent for medicinal uses of CBD, one of the main components found in MJ. However, it remains DEA schedule I, even though coca leaves and poppy straw are schedule II. If a compound found in a plant, or synthetic form, is on schedule II, then so is the plant. It does not need to be pure/isolated/extracted from plant to be on schedule II. So why isn't MJ on schedule II or III, or lower?

I started to reference specific articles/abstracts from reputable journals on the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, including possible effects to drastically slow/stop growth and metastasis of tumors, AND low toxicity. However, there are so many out there, google it and take your pick!
gkam
2 / 5 (3) Oct 27, 2014
We could make much better progress without the politics of it.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.