In a new study, researchers found supplementing chemotherapy with high-dose vitamin D may benefit people with advanced colon cancer.
The new finding may help create a new treatment strategy for people with colon cancer to delay progression of the disease.
The research was conducted by scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Vitamin D is a nutrient very important for bone health. It can be made in the body through a chemical reaction dependent on sun exposure and it is contained in some foods.
Previous research has shown that vitamin D has anti-cancer properties such as triggering programmed cell death, inhibiting cancer cell growth and reducing metastatic cancer.
Some studies have linked higher levels of vitamin D with a lower risk of colorectal cancer and improved survival of patients.
However, these studies could not prove that there is a causal relationship between vitamin D and lower colon cancer risk.
The current study, called SUNSHINE clinical trial, aimed to solve the issue. It examined 139 patients with previously untreated metastatic colorectal cancer.
The patients were divided into two groups. One group took pills containing 4,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day along with standard chemotherapy.
The other group took 400 units (about the dose found in a multivitamin) along with chemotherapy.
The researchers found that patients took high-dose of vitamin D had a median delay of 13 months before their disease worsened.
In the low-dose group, the cancer delay was about 11 months.
Moreover, patients in the high-dose vitamin D group were 36% less likely to have disease progression or death during the next 22.9 months.
The findings suggest patients who received vitamin D supplementation have better health outcomes.
This study is the first completed clinical trial of vitamin D supplementation for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.
In the future, the health benefits of vitamin D supplementation in metastatic colorectal cancer will be evaluated in a larger clinical trial.
The new study will be done at several hundred sites across the United States later this year.
The leader of the study is Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, director of Clinical Research in Dana-Farber’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Center.
The study is published in JAMA.
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