Rationale for combination ketoconazole/ vitamin D treatment of prostate cancer

Urology. 2001 Aug;58(2 Suppl 1):123-6. doi: 10.1016/s0090-4295(01)01254-7.


The high rate of progression of prostate cancer after androgen deprivation therapy mandates that new strategies be developed. Adjuvant therapy combined with androgen deprivation may slow or prevent progression. Ketoconazole plus calcitriol therapy is an example of 1 such a combination with a mechanistic basis for synergistic activity. Ketoconazole is commonly used as a second-line androgen deprivation therapy. This imidazole derivative is an inhibitor of P-450 enzymes, including those involved in steroidogenesis. Other P-450 enzymes that are inhibited by ketoconazole include 1alpha-hydroxylase and 24-hydroxylase, which metabolize vitamin D. Growth inhibition of prostate cancer cells by vitamin D depends on levels of the active metabolite, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (calcitriol). The enzyme 24-hydroxylase converts calcitriol to less active products. The inhibition of 24-hydroxylase by ketoconazole maintains the magnitude and duration of response to calcitriol. Combined ketoconazole/calcitriol therapy might therefore potentiate the antitumor activity of calcitriol. Because androgen-independent prostate cancer cells often remain responsive to growth inhibition by calcitriol, it is also possible that calcitriol would slow or prevent development of androgen-independent cancer growth. Another consideration is that ketoconazole blocks 1alpha-hydroxylase activity, which is the key enzyme that creates calcitriol in the body. Therefore, patients receiving ketoconazole therapy are likely to be deficient in vitamin D. The detrimental consequences of vitamin D deficiency in these patients would also be alleviated by the addition of calcitriol to the therapeutic regimen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Androgen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Calcitriol / administration & dosage
  • Calcitriol / pharmacology
  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • Ketoconazole / administration & dosage
  • Ketoconazole / pharmacology
  • Ketoconazole / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcitriol
  • Ketoconazole