Novel pathways that contribute to the anti-proliferative and chemopreventive activities of calcitriol in prostate cancer

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Mar;103(3-5):694-702. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.12.051. Epub 2007 Jan 16.


Calcitriol, the hormonally active form of Vitamin D, inhibits the growth and development of many cancers through multiple mechanisms. Our recent research supports the contributory role of several new and diverse pathways that add to the mechanisms already established as playing a role in the actions of calcitriol to inhibit the development and progression of prostate cancer (PCa). Calcitriol increases the expression of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), which plays a critical role in the inhibition of PCa cell growth by increasing the expression of the cell cycle inhibitor p21. Calcitriol inhibits the prostaglandin (PG) pathway by three actions: (i) the inhibition of the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the enzyme that synthesizes PGs, (ii) the induction of the expression of 15-prostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH), the enzyme that inactivates PGs and (iii) decreasing the expression of EP and FP PG receptors that are essential for PG signaling. Since PGs have been shown to promote carcinogenesis and progression of multiple cancers, the inhibition of the PG pathway may add to the ability of calcitriol to prevent and inhibit PCa development and growth. The combination of calcitriol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) result in a synergistic inhibition of PCa cell growth and offers a potential therapeutic strategy. Mitogen activated protein kinase phosphatase 5 (MKP5) is a member of a family of phosphatases that are negative regulators of MAP kinases. Calcitriol induces MKP5 expression in prostate cells leading to the selective dephosphorylation and inactivation of the stress-activated kinase p38. Since p38 activation is pro-carcinogenic and is a mediator of inflammation, this calcitriol action, especially coupled with the inhibition of the PG pathway, contributes to the chemopreventive activity of calcitriol in PCa. Mullerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) has been evaluated for its inhibitory effects in cancers of the reproductive tissues and is in development as an anti-cancer drug. Calcitriol induces MIS expression in prostate cells revealing yet another mechanism contributing to the anti-cancer activity of calcitriol in PCa. Thus, we conclude that calcitriol regulates myriad pathways that contribute to the potential chemopreventive and therapeutic utility of calcitriol in PCa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Calcitriol