Research suggests that maintaining normal vitamin D levels may benefit cancer patients.
New research indicates that for patients with advanced skin cancer, it may be important to maintain normal vitamin D levels when receiving immunotherapy medications called immune checkpoint inhibitors. The findings are published today (April 24) by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Vitamin D has many effects on the body, including regulation of the immune system. To see whether levels of vitamin D might impact the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitors, investigators analyzed the blood of 200 patients with advanced melanoma both before and every 12 weeks during immunotherapy treatment.
A favorable response rate to immune checkpoint inhibitors was observed in 56.0% of patients in the group with normal baseline vitamin D levels or normal levels obtained with vitamin D supplementation, compared with 36.2% in the group with low vitamin D levels without supplementation. Progression‐free survival—the time from treatment initiation until cancer progression—in these groups was 11.25 and 5.75 months, respectively.
“Of course, vitamin D is not itself an anti-cancer drug, but its normal serum level is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, including the response that anti-cancer drugs like immune checkpoint inhibitors affect,” said lead author Łukasz Galus, MD, of Poznan University of Medical Sciences, in Poland. “In our opinion, after appropriately randomized confirmation of our results, the assessment of vitamin D levels and its supplementation could be considered in the management of melanoma.”
The main sources of vitamin D are:
Sunlight: The body can produce vitamin D when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight. The amount of vitamin D produced depends on factors such as skin type, time of day, season, and latitude.
Food: Some foods contain small amounts of vitamin D, including fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines), fish liver oils, egg yolks, and fortified foods like milk, orange juice, and certain cereals.
Supplements: Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms – D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms can help maintain adequate vitamin D levels, especially for people with limited sun exposure or difficulty obtaining enough vitamin D from food. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation to determine the appropriate dosage.