A new study out of the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver finds that vitamin-D and prostate cancer are inexorably linked. The essential nutrient regulates the gene GDF-15. But in cases of prostate cancer driven by inflammation, when vitamin-D is absent so is the gene. The peer-reviewed journal Prostate published the study. Lead author James R. Lambert, PhD. said, “When you take vitamin D and put it on prostate cancer 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.” The group proved that vitamin-D regulates the gene, and wanted to further prove that this particular gene was how vitamin-D affected prostate cancer. Dr. Lambert wrote in the press release, “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 prostate tissue samples, expression of GDF-15 did not track with either normal or cancerous prostate tissue.” But then they noticed something else.
The presence of GDF-15 was low in human prostate cancer tissue samples where inflammation was present. Dr. Lambert said, “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.” Researchers utilized a sophisticated new technique in this study, using computer algorithms to analyze biochemical data. Gene GDF-15 was shown to inhibit NFkB, a biochemical compound which was shown to contribute to cancer growth and inflammation in previous studies. Dr. Lambert said, “There’s been a lot of work on inhibiting NFkB.” He added, “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.”