A novel role of vitamin D in protecting against prostate cancer

Why we funded it

If this project successfully demonstrates that vitamin D is effective for lowering levels tumour androgens (hormones), this may represent an attractive viable treatment option to be used in combination with current hormone therapy.

Treatment options are limited for advanced, hormone-resistant cancer and the use of something as simple as Vitamin D to improve the outcomes of current therapies would be of great value to help men with prostate cancer live longer.

Scientific title: A novel chemoprotective role for vitamin D in prostate cancer.

Research project summary

There is some scientific evidence that vitamin D may have a role in preventing prostate cancer from developing (primary prevention) or in stopping prostate tumours progressing (secondary prevention).  For this reason, Dr Thompson's research team is studying the role of vitamin D in reducing the levels of testosterone hormones, key drivers of prostate cancer growth.

This project will look at whether vitamin D can help prevent prostate cancer progressing to a hormone-resistant state by stopping tumours producing their own sources of testosterone when they are challenged by testosterone-reducing treatments. The team will do this using a range of technologies; studies of prostate cancer cells cultured in the laboratory, mouse models of prostate cancer, and tissue samples donated by men with prostate cancer who are taking vitamin D supplements.

If these tests suggest vitamin D supplementation is effective at lowering tumour testosterone levels this would be expected to lead to clinical trials combining vitamin D supplements with hormone therapy.  Delaying or preventing the onset of hormone-resistant disease would be an important step forward in improving survival for men with advanced prostate cancer.

Grant information

Institution - University of Ulster
Researcher - Dr Paul Thompson
Grant award - £164,754
Duration - 2010-2013
Reference - PG09-26 Thompson