Skip to main content

Vitamin D may prevent side-effect of cancer treatment

New research indicates that taking vitamin D supplements may help prevent a potentially serious side effect of a revolutionary form of anti-cancer therapy. The findings are published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS).



An important capacity of the immune system is its ability to distinguish between normal cells in the body and those it sees as “foreign.” This lets the immune system attack the foreign cells while leaving the normal cells alone. To do this, it uses “checkpoints.” Immune checkpoints are molecules on certain immune cells that need to be activated (or inactivated) to start an immune response.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors help the immune system recognize and combat cancer cells, and although these treatments have helped many patients and have prolonged lives, they can cause side effects such as colitis, an inflammatory reaction in the colon.

 “Immune checkpoint inhibitor-induced colitis can limit the use of such life-saving drugs leading to discontinuation of treatment. While it is one of the most common and severe adverse events of immunotherapy, there is a lack of understanding of the risk factors that could be modified to prevent colitis,” said Osama Rahma, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

Dr Rahma and his colleagues conducted a study that examined whether taking vitamin D supplements might reduce the risk of colitis in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat their cancer. The team chose this strategy because previous studies have found that vitamin D may affect the immune system in cases of autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel disease.

The study included information on 213 patients with melanoma who received immune checkpoint inhibitors between 2011 and 2017. Thirty-seven (17 per cent) of these patients developed colitis. Sixty-six patients in the study (31 per cent) took vitamin D supplements before starting treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Patients who took vitamin D had 65 per cent lower odds of developing colitis, after adjustments for confounding factors. These findings were validated in another group of 169 patients, of whom 49 (29 per cent) developed colitis. In this validation group, use of vitamin D was linked with 54 per cent lower odds of developing colitis.

“Our findings of a link between vitamin D intake and reduced risk for colitis could potentially impact practice if validated in future prospective studies,” said Dr Rahma.

 “Vitamin D supplementation should be tested further to determine if it could be a safe, easily accessible, and cost-effective approach towards preventing immunotherapy’s gastrointestinal toxicity and extending the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment in cancer patients.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

Keir Starmer has a lot to offer

The Labour Party is in the process of making a decision that will decide whether it can recover from the defeat in 2019 General Election.  All the candidates have much to offer and are making their case well. No doubt for some the decision will be difficult.  Others may well have made up their minds on the simple binary of Left-wing-Right-wing. The choice should be whoever is best placed to pull the party together.  Someone who can form a front bench of all talents and across the spectrum in the party. That is what Harold Wilson did in the 1960s.  His government included Roy Jenkins on the right and Barbar Castle on the left; it included Crossman and Crossland, and Tony Benn with Jim Callaghan.  It presented a formidable team. Keir Starmer brings to the top table a formidable career outside politics, having been a human rights lawyer and then Director of Public Prosecutions.   He is a man of integrity and commitment who believes in a fairer society where opportunities are more

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't