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Vitamin D3 May Slow the Spread of Pleural Mesothelioma, Study Shows

Vitamin D might help fight mesothelioma

A study conducted in Italy suggests that Vitamin D3 might help keep mesothelioma cells from growing and spreading.

The biologically active form of Vitamin D is calcitriol or D3. Other studies suggest it might have anticancer properties. But no one has studied its effect on mesothelioma cells until now. 

The researchers applied Vitamin D3 to pleural mesothelioma cells in the lab. Not only did it weaken the cells, but it also blocked their ability to divide into new cells. The study suggests that Vitamin D may even boost the effectiveness of mesothelioma chemotherapy.

The Cancer-Fighting Role of Calcitriol

The body naturally produces calcitriol. It plays a role in regulating the cell cycle, including apoptosis or natural cell death. Vitamin D3 also has an anti-inflammatory effect which can help keep tumors in check. 

Studies show that inhibiting Vitamin D3 makes cancer treatment less effective. Researchers at the University of Turin wondered if boosting calcitriol could have the opposite effect. 

This could be especially valuable for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma is highly aggressive and there are few good treatment options. 

Mesothelioma Cells and Vitamin D3

Mesothelioma is also called asbestos cancer. It is extremely rare. But once it takes hold, mesothelioma tumors grow and spread quickly. Many patients do not live more than a year or two after mesothelioma diagnosis. 

The first treatment for mesothelioma is usually chemotherapy with Alimta (pemetrexed). But a lot of mesothelioma patients fail to respond to pemetrexed. Vitamin D3 might help.

The Italian researchers exposed pleural mesothelioma cells to calcitriol in the lab. 

“The results showed that calcitriol reduces cell viability and proliferation in human MPM cells lines,” writes lead study author Iacopo Gesmundo with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Turin’s Department of Medical Sciences. 

Effects of Calcitriol in the Lab are Encouraging

The Vitamin D3 caused cell cycle arrest and inhibited the release of compounds involved in cell cycle progression. It also interrupted how the mitochondria (energy producers) function in the cells. Calcitriol even enhanced the mesothelioma-fighting power of pemetrexed. 

“Collectively, these results indicate a novel anticancer role for calcitriol in MPM, suggesting potential for vitamin D derivatives, alone or in combination with chemotherapy, in the treatment of this malignancy,” the report concludes.

It’s important to note that this was only a laboratory test on isolated mesothelioma cells. It did not involve Vitamin D supplements or human mesothelioma patients. 

Scientists still do not know if supplementation could improve the odds of surviving mesothelioma. Cancer patients should not alter their diet or take supplements without first consulting their oncologist. 


Gesmundo, I, et al, “Calcitriol Inhibits Viability and Proliferation in Human Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Cells”, October 8, 2020, Frontiers in Endocrinology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2020.559586/full

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