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Steroids. 2012 Sep;77(11):1107-12. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2012.06.005. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

The potential therapeutic benefits of vitamin D in the treatment of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, United States.


Calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3)), the hormonally active form of vitamin D, inhibits the growth of many malignant cells including breast cancer (BCa) cells. The mechanisms of calcitriol anticancer actions include cell cycle arrest, stimulation of apoptosis and inhibition of invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. In addition we have discovered new pathways of calcitriol action that are especially relevant in inhibiting the growth of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) BCa cells. Calcitriol suppresses COX-2 expression and increases that of 15-PGDH thereby reducing the levels of inflammatory prostaglandins (PGs). Our in vitro and in vivo studies show that calcitriol decreases the expression of aromatase, the enzyme that catalyzes estrogen synthesis selectively in BCa cells and in the mammary adipose tissue surrounding BCa, by a direct repression of aromatase transcription via promoter II as well as an indirect effect due to the reduction in the levels of PGs, which are major stimulator of aromatase transcription through promoter II. Calcitriol down-regulates the expression of ERα and thereby attenuates estrogen signaling in BCa cells including the proliferative stimulus provided by estrogens. Thus the inhibition of estrogen synthesis and signaling by calcitriol and its anti-inflammatory actions will play an important role in inhibiting ER+BCa. We hypothesize that dietary vitamin D would exhibit similar anticancer activity due to the presence of the enzyme 25-hydroxyvitamin D-1α-hydroxylase (CYP27B1) in breast cells ensuring conversion of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D to calcitriol locally within the breast micro-environment where it can act in a paracrine manner to inhibit BCa growth. Cell culture and in vivo data in mice strongly suggest that calcitriol and dietary vitamin D would play a beneficial role in the prevention and/or treatment of ER+BCa in women.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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