A University of Colorado Cancer Center study recently published in Prostate offers compelling evidence that inflammation may be the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer. Specifically, the study showed that GDF-15 is notably absent in samples of human prostate cancer.2

Study investigator James Lambert, PhD, of the Colorado University Cancer Center in Denver, CO, had theorized that there might be high levels of GDF-15 in normal tissue and low levels in prostate cancer.

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However, he and his team found that in a large cohort of human prostate tissue samples, expression of GDF-15 did not track with either normal or cancerous prostate tissue.

The researchers found that the gene GDF-15 was shown to suppress inflammation by inhibiting another target, NFkB. This target, NFkB, has been the focus of many previous studies in which it has been shown to promote inflammation and contribute to tumor formation and growth.

Dr. Lambert said there has been a lot of work on inhibiting NFkB and now there is a better understanding how to use GDF-15 to target NFkB, which may have implications in cancer types far beyond prostate.

According to a new study led by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, vitamin D may significantly benefit patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

They reported in January at the 2015 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, CA, that patients who had high levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream prior to treatment with chemotherapy and targeted drugs survived longer than patients with lower levels of vitamin D.3

Lead study author, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, who is a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber, said patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D survived for a median period of 32.6 months compared to 24.5 months for those with the lowest levels.

The study didn’t examine whether there is a biological cause-and-effect relationship between higher vitamin D levels and extended survival. For now, the investigators report it’s too early to recommend vitamin D as a treatment for colon cancer.

RELATED: Vitamin D Deficiency May Raise Aggressive Prostate Cancer Risk

According to a recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, patients who have higher levels of vitamin D when they are diagnosed tend to have better survival rates and remain in remission longer than patients who are vitamin D-deficient.4

The meta-analysis looked at the results of 25 separate studies that measured vitamin D levels in patients with cancer at the time of diagnosis and tracked survival rates. In most of the research, patients had their vitamin D levels tested before they underwent any treatment for cancer. The study found a 10 ng/mL increase in vitamin D levels was tied to a 4% increase in survival.

Researchers found the strongest link between vitamin D levels and survival in breast cancer, lymphoma, and colorectal cancer. There was less evidence of a connection in patients with lung cancer, gastric cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, melanoma, or Merkel cell carcinoma.


  1. Marshall DT1, Savage SJ, Garrett-Mayer E, et al. Vitamin D3 supplementation at 4000 international units per day for one year results in a decrease of positive cores at repeat biopsy in subjects with low-risk prostate cancer under active surveillance. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012;97(7):2315-2324.
  2. Lambert JR, Whitson RJ, Iczkowski KA, et al. Reduced expression of GDF-15 is associated with atrophic inflammatory lesions of the prostate. Prostate. 2015;75(3):255-265.
  3. Ng K, Venook AP, Sato K, et al. Vitamin D status and survival of metastatic colorectal cancer patients: Results from CALGB/SWOG 80405 (Alliance). J Clin Oncol. 2015;33(3); Abstract 507.
  4. Li M, Chen P, Li J, et al. Review: the impacts of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels on cancer patient outcomes: a systematic teview and meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;99(7):2327-2336.