Numerous epidemiological studies have shown the association of vitamin D deficiency with a higher incidence and mortality of various cancers , such as colorectal cancer (CRC). Now researchers from the Center of Biomedical Research in Network for Cancer (CIBERONC) described the action of calcitriol (the active derivative of vitamin D that is generated in our body’s skin by solar action or ingested through the diet) in stem cells of the colon. The alteration of these cells is crucial in the onset, progression and resistance to CRC treatment. The researchers detail, in the latest issue of The FEBS Journal, the action of calcitriol slowing proliferation and inducing differentiation of stem cancer cells or cancer stem cells.

Coordinated by the Alberto Muñoz group of CiberONC at the Alberto Sols Biomedical Research Institute (CSIC/Autonomous University of Madrid), the study showed that stem cells from healthy human colonic tissue express VDR, the vitamin D receptor . The analyzes have been carried out from the addition of an organoid biobank from healthy and tumor tissue of 39 patients with CRC in order to analyze the effect of calcitriol on stem cells  and their progeny, both normal and tumor.

Protective action

According to Antonio Barbáchano, co-director of the work and researcher at CiberONC, “calcitriol has a profound and different regulatory effect on gene expression and the cellular phenotype in the two types of organoids: it induces stem genes and maintains the undifferentiated cellular phenotype in normal organoids, while promoting cell differentiation in tumor. In both types, calcitriol definitely reduces cell proliferation.”

The importance of vitamin D in homeostasis of the colon, which depends on the activity and renewal of the stem cells and their protective action in CRC, is evidenced. The Barbáchano group has been investigating the relationship between vitamin D and colorectal cancer for 20 years, one of the most prevalent in Spain.

Research results indicate that calcitriol inhibits proliferation and invasiveness and promotes differentiation of colon carcinoma cells, in addition to a protective effect of vitamin D acting on stromal fibroblasts isolated from patients with this type of cancer. There is an additional protective effect against CRC acting on tumor stem cells.


Source: Correo Farmacéutico