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Wednesday May 22, 2024

Breakthrough study shows Vitamin D boosts immunity in cancer fight



Research reveals that vitamin D enhances gut bacteria, improving cancer resistance and treatment efficacy in mice

A recent study has uncovered a surprising benefit of vitamin D in the fight against cancer, suggesting a significant role for the vitamin in enhancing immune responses. Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute discovered that a diet rich in vitamin D improves the growth of certain gut bacteria in mice, boosting their immunity against experimentally induced cancers.

The study focused on the effects of vitamin D on the gut microbiome, specifically how it aids in the proliferation of a bacteria known as Bacteroides fragilis. This bacteria, in turn, appears to enhance the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Mice fed a vitamin D-rich diet showed not only greater resistance to tumour growth but also improved responses to immunotherapy treatments.

According to Caetano Reis e Sousa, head of the immunobiology laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute and the senior author of the study, the findings were unexpected. “It was surprising to see that vitamin D can regulate the gut microbiome in a way that significantly boosts cancer immunity in mice,” he said. This discovery could potentially translate into new strategies for cancer prevention and treatment in humans, although further research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved fully.

The study also examined data from 1.5 million people in Denmark, revealing a correlation between lower vitamin D levels and increased cancer risk. Additional analysis suggested that higher vitamin D levels might improve outcomes in human cancer patients undergoing immune-based treatments.

Evangelos Giampazolias, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Crick and now a leader of the Cancer Immunosurveillance Group at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, emphasized the importance of understanding how vitamin D influences the microbiome. “Identifying how vitamin D supports a beneficial microbiome could reveal new ways the microbiome impacts the immune system, offering exciting opportunities for cancer prevention and treatment,” he noted.

Dr. Nisharnthi Duggan, Research Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, cautioned that while the research is promising, it is still at an early stage. “There isn’t enough evidence yet to definitively link vitamin D levels with reduced cancer risk,” she explained. However, she encouraged the public to maintain adequate vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure, diet, and supplements, while also practicing safe sun exposure to reduce skin cancer risk.

The research provides a hopeful glimpse into how dietary factors and microbiome health can influence cancer immunity, potentially guiding future therapeutic developments. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and others, the study’s findings were published in the prestigious Science journal, marking a significant step forward in our understanding of cancer biology and treatment.


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