The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology

Equivalent anticancer activities of dietary vitamin D and calcitriol in an animal model of breast cancer: importance of mammary CYP27B1 for treatment and prevention.

PMID 22939886


Calcitriol [1,25(OH)2D3], the hormonally active form of vitamin D exerts anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory effects and other anticancer actions in breast cancer (BCa) cell cultures and animal models of BCa. Our research is focused on investigating the potential beneficial effects of dietary vitamin D3 compared to calcitriol and the underlying mechanisms in BCa treatment and chemoprevention. We recently found that dietary vitamin D3 exhibits significant tumor inhibitory effects in xenograft models of BCa that are equivalent to those elicited by the administration of the active hormone calcitriol. At the easily achievable dose tested in our studies, dietary vitamin D3 exhibited substantial tumor inhibitory activity and, unlike calcitriol, did not cause hypercalcemia demonstrating its relative safety. We found elevations in circulating calcitriol as well as increased CYP27B1 expression in the tumor and the intestine in tumor-bearing mice ingesting a vitamin D3-supplemented diet. We hypothesize that the elevation in circulating 25(OH)D induced by dietary vitamin D3 supplements stimulates local synthesis of calcitriol in the mammary tumor microenvironment and the ensuing paracrine/autocrine actions play a major role in the anticancer activity of dietary vitamin D3. Our findings suggest that the endocrine activity of calcitriol derived from tumor and other extra-renal sources such as the intestine, probably also plays a role in mediating the anticancer effects of dietary vitamin D3. Thus it appears that multiple sites of 1α-hydroxylation contribute to the anticancer effects of dietary vitamin D3. Our data strongly suggest that dietary vitamin D will be useful in the chemoprevention and treatment of BCa since it is a safe, economical and easily available nutritional agent that is equivalent to calcitriol in exerting anticancer effects, at least in mouse models. Furthermore, adequate vitamin D nutrition and avoidance of vitamin D deficiency appear to be important in reducing BCa risk. These findings warrant clinical trials in BCa patients and in women at high risk for BCa to evaluate the benefits of dietary vitamin D3 supplementation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Vitamin D Workshop'.