Vitamin D Can Help Protect You Against One of the Deadliest Types of Cancer

A critical mechanism exploited by ovarian cancer can be successfully blocked by vitamin D.

Ovarian cancer has one of the highest fatality rates of all malignancies. This is partly because cancer may make the body's defenses work against it. Although vitamin D may be able to successfully inhibit one of the main mechanisms used by this malignancy, recent study from Nagoya University, which was published in the journal Matrix Biology, suggests otherwise.

Peritoneal metastasis is a process that ovarian cancer frequently experiences. Its cells separate from their main site in the ovary during this process and migrate to a secondary implantation site, such as the peritoneal wall or diaphragm. By creating a barrier of mesothelial cells that prevents cancer cells from attaching and migrating, the peritoneum defends itself against this process. But ovarian cancer gets through this defense by changing the mesothelial cells that were sheltering them into cancer-associated mesothelial cells. The environment is encouraged to support metastasis, which enhances the cancer's capacity to metastasize and spread throughout the body.

Along with collaborators from the Bell Research Center and the Department of Pathology, the team, led by Dr. Masato Yoshihara of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, found that vitamin D not only prevented this process but also restored cancer-associated mesothelial cells to their initial state. This procedure enhanced the mesothelial cells' ability to serve as barriers, preventing the cancer from spreading. According to their findings, supplementing vitamin D therapy with other ovarian cancer treatments may be beneficial.

The study's first author, Dr. Kazuhisa Kitami, stated that "we demonstrated the potential of vitamin D for regulating cancer-associated mesothelial cells." The most intriguing finding of this study is that it is possible to return the peritoneal environment to its pre-cancerous condition, where it inhibits the adherence and proliferation of cancer cells, even in cases when ovarian cancer early detection is still very challenging.

Due to the complex manner in which cancer spreads, vitamin D can do this. According to earlier research, TGF-1, a protein linked to cell development, is secreted by cancer cells. Through the TGF-/Smad pathway, this also raises the level of thrombospondin-1, a different protein. Because it is more prevalent in the later, deadlier stages of disease, thrombospondin-1 has long piqued the curiosity of ovarian cancer experts. A crucial protein in ovarian cancer that promotes the growth and adherence of ovarian cancer cells to the peritoneum is thrombospondin-1. Vitamin D may prevent cancer because it interferes with the TGF-/Smad pathway.

According to Dr. Kitami, vitamin D treatment helps restore normalcy to the peritoneal environment. This implies that adding vitamin D to traditional treatments may improve their ability to treat ovarian cancer. This may help prevent the return of ovarian cancer because it inhibits the attachment of cancer cells to the peritoneum, in our opinion.

A vitamin's ability to fight a cancer that affects one in 75 women is still a promising possibility, especially given that it does so by reestablishing the body's natural defenses. The development of medicines based on this research may provide fresh approaches to ovarian cancer's high mortality rate.

This study was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (19H03797, 20K03824, 21K16788).

Reference: Kazuhisa Kitami, Masato Yoshihara, Satoshi Tamauchi, Mai Sugiyama, Yoshihiro Koya, Yoshihiko Yamakita, Hiroki Fujimoto, Shohei Iyoshi, Kaname Uno, Kazumasa Mogi, Yoshiki Ikeda, Akira Yokoi, Nobuhisa Yoshikawa, Kimihiro Nishino, Kaoru Niimi, Akihiro Nawa, Atsushi Enomoto and Hiroaki Kajiyama, 8 April 2022, Matrix Biology.