Researchers at McGill University may have uncovered the molecular basis for the previously observed cancer effects of vitamin D.
The researchers found that vitamin D slows the progression of cells from premalignant to malignant states, also aiding in keeping proliferation in check.
The researchers, led by Professors John White and David Goltzman, discovered that vitamin D inhibits the production and function of the protein cMYC. cMYC drives cell division and is active at elevated levels in more than half of all cancers.
White and Goltzman applied vitamin D to the skin of mice and found that the level of cMYC dropped and also observed a decrease in cMYC function. The researchers also found that in mice lacking vitamin D receptors, there were significantly higher levels of cMYC in a number of tissues in the body.
“For years, my lab has been dedicated to studying the molecular mechanisms of vitamin D in human cancer cells, particularly its role in stopping their proliferation. We discovered that vitamin D controls both the rate of production and the degradation of cMYC. More importantly, we found that vitamin D strongly stimulates the production of a natural antagonist of cMYC called MXD1, essentially shutting down cMYC function,” explained Professor White.
The researchers hope the study will encourage people to achieve sufficient vitamin D levels and will increase the development of “large, well-controlled cancer chemoprevention trials to test the effects of adequate supplementation.”