1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D3, calcitriol] can inhibit the proliferation of some human prostate cancer cells but its clinical use is limited by hypercalcemia. We therefore explored the bioactivity of less calcemic vitamin D analogs. We studied the effects of calcitriol and 3 synthetic analogs at concentrations of 10(-6) to 10(-12) M on the in vitro proliferation of 3 human prostate carcinoma cell lines: DU 145, PC-3, and LNCaP. Calcitriol and analogs showed significant antiproliferative activity on PC-3 and LNCaP cells. DU 145 cells were inhibited by the analogs only. We conclude that vitamin D analogs warrant further investigation as therapeutic agents in prostate cancer.