Introduction: Breast cancer metastases to bone are common in advanced stage disease. We have recently demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency enhances breast cancer growth in an osteolytic mouse model of breast cancer metastasis. In this study, we examined the effects of vitamin D deficiency on tumor growth in an osteosclerotic model of intra-skeletal breast cancer in mice.
Methods: The effects of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25(OH)(2)D(3)] on proliferation and apoptosis of MCF-7 breast cancer cells, and changes in the expression of genes within the vitamin D metabolic pathway (VDR, 1α- and 24-hydroxylase) were examined in vitro. MCF-7 breast cancer cells were injected intra-tibially into vitamin D deficient and vitamin D sufficient mice co-treated with and without osteoprotegerin (OPG). The development of tumor-related lesions was monitored via serial X-ray analysis. Tumor burden and indices of proliferation and apoptosis were determined by histology along with markers of bone turnover and serum intact PTH levels.
Results: In vitro, MCF-7 cells expressed critical genes for vitamin D signalling and metabolism. Treatment with 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) inhibited cell growth and proliferation, and increased apoptosis. In vivo, osteosclerotic lesions developed faster and were larger at endpoint in the tibiae of vitamin D deficient mice compared to vitamin D sufficient mice (1.49±0.08 mm(2) versus 1.68±0.15 mm(2), P<0.05). Tumor area was increased by 55.8% in vitamin D deficient mice (0.81±0.13 mm(2) versus 0.52±0.11 mm(2) in vitamin D sufficient mice). OPG treatment inhibited bone turnover and caused an increase in PTH levels, while tumor burden was reduced by 90.4% in vitamin D sufficient mice and by 92.6% in vitamin D deficient mice. Tumor mitotic activity was increased in the tibiae of vitamin D deficient mice and apoptosis was decreased, consistent with faster growth.
Conclusion: Vitamin D deficiency enhances both the growth of tumors and the tumor-induced osteosclerotic changes in the tibiae of mice following intratibial implantation of MCF-7 cells. Enhancement of tumor growth appears dependent on increased bone resorption rather than increased bone formation induced by these tumors.
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