The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention and treatment

Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2010 Jun;39(2):401-18, table of contents. doi: 10.1016/j.ecl.2010.02.011.


Calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3)), the hormonally active form of vitamin D, exerts growth inhibitory and prodifferentiating effects on many malignant cells and retards tumor growth in animal models. Calcitriol is being evaluated as an anticancer agent in several human cancers. The mechanisms underlying the anticancer effects of calcitriol include inhibition of cell proliferation, stimulation of apoptosis, suppression of inflammation, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. This review discusses some of the molecular pathways mediating these anticancer actions of calcitriol and the preclinical data in cell culture and animal models. The clinical trials evaluating the use of calcitriol and its analogues in the treatment of patients with cancer are described. The reasons for the lack of impressive beneficial effects in clinical trials compared with the substantial efficacy seen in preclinical models are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Calcitriol / analogs & derivatives
  • Calcitriol / pharmacology
  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dual-Specificity Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatases / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy
  • Prostaglandins / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D / toxicity


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • Prostaglandins
  • Vitamin D
  • DUSP10 protein, human
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatases
  • Dual-Specificity Phosphatases
  • Calcitriol