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Cancer Research Center Study Reveals Enhanced Role of Vitamin D3 in Fighting Prostate Cancer

Genome study by graduate student Wei-Lin Winnie Wang suggests maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D3 and testosterone slows cancer's growth.

Graduate student Wei-Lin Winnie Wang's Cancer Research Center study on Vitamin D3 is featured in this month's journal Molecular Cancer. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

A paper published this week in the journal Molecular Cancer highlights a recent study at the University at Albany's Cancer Research Center which indicates the importance of vitamin D3 in slowing the progression of prostate cancer.

The study, performed by graduate student Wei-Lin Winnie Wang under the supervision of professors JoEllen Welsh and Martin Tenniswood, suggests that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D3 and testosterone (the major male hormone) alters the biology of prostate tumor cells and slows the growth of prostate cancer cells in cell culture.

Wang used whole genome microarray to measure the changes in the genes that control cell division and cell death. Her results revealed that vitamin D3 and testosterone interact to affect the levels of a number of RNA molecules that cause the cells to stop dividing.

The study also used microarray technology platforms within UAlbany's Center for Functional Genomics to study the effects of vitamin D3 on the levels of a new class of small RNA molecules called micro RNAs (miRNAs). The results are the first to show that vitamin D3 regulates the levels of miRNA in prostate tumor cells and that miRNAs may slow down the progression of the disease.

The research was funded by an operating grant from the National Cancer Institute to Welsh and Tenniswood, UAlbany's Empire Innovations Professors in the departments of Biomedical Sciences and Environmental Health Sciences, respectively.

Since vitamin D3 levels decline in older men, the research suggests that supplementation of vitamin D3 may slow or halt the progression of prostate cancer. Clinical studies to confirm these findings in prostate cancer patients are being planned as a collaboration between the research team at UAlbany and Dr. Hugh Fisher of the Urological Institute of Northeastern New York.

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