In 2009, Pamela Hershberger PhD, presented an abstract at the American Association for Cancer Research demonstrating that lung cancer cells had the ability to eliminate Vitamin D. She discovered that lung cancer cells produced an enzyme (CYP24) that destroyed Vitamin D.(1) These data strongly supported the hypothesis that Vitamin D levels are critical in both the prevention of cancer and in improving the prognosis of those already afflicted.
Now in the Feb 11th 2011 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research, data are presented that show that the enzyme not only destroys the active form of Vitamin D but is found in higher concentrations in patients with aggressive tumors who have the worst survival prospects.(2)
Nithya Ramnath, MD and her colleagues at the University of Michigan evaluated tumor samples from 86 patients with adenocarcinoma of the lung and determined the level of CYP24 in these tumors. CYP24 is produced in high quantities in many types of tumor and produces an enzyme that destroys the active form of Vitamin D.
They found that levels of CYP24 were 8-50 times higher in patients with lung cancer compared to those with healthy lungs. Patients with high levels of CYP24 (and hence lower levels of vitamin D) had an increased likeliness of suffering from an aggressive tumor and had only a 42% chance of being alive five years later. Conversely, those with a low level of CYP24 and hence a high level of Vitamin D had an 81% chance of being alive 5 years after diagnosis.
"Half of lung cancers will recur after surgery, so it's important to find a way to prevent or delay this recurrence. A natural compound like Vitamin D is attractive because it has few side effects, but it's even better if we can determine exactly who would benefit from receiving Vitamin D," says study author Nithya Ramnath, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.
Multiple epidemiological studies have suggested that not only is cancer more common in areas with less sunlight, but that cancer patients have a worse prognosis in areas with low sunlight. Much data has linked these findings to Vitamin D levels. The significance of these most recent data are obvious. Demonstrating that cancer cells have the ability to destroy Vitamin D and how effectively tumor cells destroy Vitamin D correlates with survival all but proves the link between Vitamin D levels and survival.
However it is clear that some tumors may be much more effective than others in deactivating Vitamin D. This stresses the importance of measuring Vitamin D levels and adjusting the dose accordingly rather than assuming that one dose fits all.
1) Abstract Number 2402,100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), April 18 to 22 2009
2) CYP24A1 Is an Independent Prognostic Marker of Survival in Patients with Lung Adenocarcinoma. Clin Cancer Res February 15, 2011 17; 817 Ramnath et al.
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