Epidemiologic data suggest that low exposure to vitamin D or 1alpha,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol (calcitriol) increases the risk of prostate cancer. Calcitriol, a central factor in bone and mineral metabolism, is also a potent antiproliferative agent in a wide variety of malignant cell types. We have demonstrated that calcitriol has significant antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo in prostate and squamous cell carcinoma model systems. Calcitriol, in these models, induces a significant G0/G1 arrest and modulates p21(Waf1/Cip1) and p27(Kip1), the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. Calcitriol induces poly (adenosine diphosphate-ribose) polymerase cleavage, increases bax/bcl-2 ratio, reduces levels of phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinases (P-MAPKs; also known as extracellular signal-related kinase [ERK] 1/2) and phosphorylated Akt, induces caspase-dependent mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) cleavage and upregulation of MEK kinase-1, all potential markers of the apoptotic pathway. We also have demonstrated that dexamethasone (dex) potentiates the antitumor effect of calcitriol through effects on the vitamin D receptor and decreases calcitriol-induced hypercalcemia. We initiated phase 1 and phase 2 trials of calcitriol, either alone or in combination with carboplatin, paclitaxel, or dex. Data from these studies indicate that high-dose calcitriol is feasible on an intermittent schedule, the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) is unclear, and dex or paclitaxel appear to ameliorate hypercalcemia. Studies continue to define the MTD of calcitriol on this intermittent schedule, either alone or with other agents, and to evaluate the mechanisms of calcitriol effects in prostate cancer models.