Vitamin D-related therapies in prostate cancer

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2002;21(2):147-58. doi: 10.1023/a:1020836226594.


Calcitriol or 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol (vitamin D) is classically known for its effects on bone and mineral metabolism. Epidemiological data suggest that low vitamin D levels increase the risk and mortality from prostate cancer. Calcitriol is also a potent anti-proliferative agent in a wide variety of malignant cell types including prostate cancer cells. In prostate model systems (PC-3, LNCaP, DU145, MLL) calcitriol has significant anti-tumor activity in vitro and in vivo. Calcitriol's effects are associated with an increase in cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, differentiation and in the modulation of growth factor receptors. Calcitriol induces a significant G0/G1 arrest and modulates p21(Waf/Cip1) and p27(Kip1), the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors. Calcitriol induces PARP cleavage, increases the bax/bcl-2 ratio, reduces levels of phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinases (P-MAPKs, P-Erk-1/2) and phosphorylated Akt (P-Akt), induces caspase-dependent MEK cleavage and up-regulation of MEKK-1, all potential markers of the apoptotic pathway. Glucocorticoids potentiate the anti-tumor effect of calcitriol and decrease calcitriol-induced hypercalcemia. In combination with calcitriol, dexamethasone results in a significant time- and dose-dependent increase in VDR protein and an enhanced apoptotic response as compared to calcitriol alone. Calcitriol can also significantly increase cytotoxic drug-mediated anti-tumor efficacy. As a result, phase I and II trials of calcitriol either alone or in combination with the carboplatin, paclitaxel, or dexamethasone have been initiated in patients with androgen-dependent and -independent prostate cancer and advanced cancer. Patients were evaluated for toxicity, maximum tolerated dose (MTD), schedule effects, and PSA response. Data from these studies indicate that high-dose calcitriol is feasible on an intermittent schedule, the MTD is still being delineated and dexamethasone or paclitaxel appear to ameliorate toxicity. Studies continue to define the MTD of calcitriol whichcan be safely administered on this intermittent schedule either alone or with other agents and to evaluate the mechanisms of calcitriol effects in prostate cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Molecular
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / chemistry
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D Response Element / genetics


  • Vitamin D
  • Calcitriol