Vitamin D shows promise as cancer prevention drug

August 22, 2000

Strong evidence of effectiveness in animal tests

Washington D.C., August 22 -- Today, mothers urge vitamin D on their children to build strong bones and teeth. Within a decade, a chemically modified version of the vitamin could become one of a small but growing number of drugs used to prevent cancer, researchers reported today at the 220th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Vitamin D is often added to milk and produced naturally by skin exposed to sunlight. But taken in the amounts needed to realize its cancer prevention potential, vitamin D can be too much of a good thing. Prolonged use can lead to osteoporosis or even death.

Now, a research team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., with funding from the National Institutes of Health, says that it may have found a way around the problem. The researchers designed four different versions of vitamin D in their laboratory and tested them on two groups of mice: one that was painted with a tumor-inducing chemical and one that was not. Then they compared how the two groups fared.

After a 20-week treatment period, the most promising vitamin D candidate reduced the incidence of tumors by 28 percent and the number of tumors by 63 percent. The results demonstrate the drug's potential effectiveness in preventing cancer, according to the researchers. Previous studies in mice have shown that the drug is safe when ingested, they say.

"This is among the very best vitamin D analogs in terms of its therapeutic profile," says Gary H. Posner, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and a professor of chemistry at the university. He is collaborating in this effort with Thomas W. Kensler, Ph.D., a professor at the university's School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Posner cautions that the drug, which has not yet been tested in humans, is still in the early stages of development and could take 10 years to hit the market. If successful, the drug will most likely be given to patients at high risk for cancer, he says.

There has been a growing interest in cancer prevention, with many studies claiming the cancer-preventive properties of teas, herbal medicines and vitamin supplements, including vitamins A, C and E. Many of these claims are untested or poorly tested, while the compounds themselves are generally not regulated. As a result, consumers who use these products are subjecting themselves to potential health risks, says Posner.

Other laboratories are also developing cancer-preventive drugs, but none has yet made it to the market, he says. Celecoxib, a drug approved for the treatment of arthritis, is now being evaluated by the NIH for the prevention of colon cancer. Oltipraz, developed to treat a type of parasitic worm infection, is undergoing human trials for the prevention of liver cancer.

This year, more than 550,000 Americans are expected to die of cancer and more than one million new cases will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease is the second leading cause of death in this country, behind heart disease. Development and production of any drug that is scientifically proven to prevent cancer in humans would be a historical milestone, says Posner.
-end-
The paper on this research, MEDI 191, will be presented at 12:45 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22, in the Washington Convention Center, Room 30.

Gary H. Posner, Ph.D., is a professor of chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

American Chemical Society

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.