Credit: Image by PDPics from Pixabay 

Reviewed by Simpal Kumar Suman (Biotech communicator)

Cancer Research UK scientists have found that vitamin D influences the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway and behaviour of melanoma cells (cancer cells) . A new study published in Cancer Research(AACR publications)  in November , 2019. According to this research vitamin D may reduce the aggressive behaviour of melanoma cells and slow down the growth of melanoma cells.

Key points: Melanoma

The most dangerous type of skin cancer Due to mutations in DNA of melanocytes ( pigment-producing cell) caused by UV exposure Around 1600 cases of newly skin cancer patients appeared in UK every year. In the past 4 decades the survival rate has doubled. Every year in England around 300 people at latest stage is diagnosed when melanoma is at advanced stage(aggressive stage) and difficult to treat. But people with this stage melanoma has a one year survival rate of around 55%, compared to almost 100% for patients whose cancer is detected and observed very early stage.

Key points: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which play various important physiological roles in our body. It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate The recent research shown that vitamin D metabolism significantly tied up with melanoma cell behaviour.

Link between vitamin D and melanoma cancer

On the basis of previous research scientists have known that low level of vitamin D circulating in the body of melanoma give serious or worse outcomes. But mechanism was uncleared. A research team from University of Leeds wished to visualize what processes were being regulated by vitamin  D in malignant melanoma cells, and what happens once there’s an absence of a VDR on the surface of the malignant melanoma cells known as a vitamin D receptor (VDR), that permits Vitamin D to bind to the cell’s surface.

The scientists observed that the activity of the gene that makes VDR(vitamin D receptor) in 703 human melanoma tumors, and 353 human melanoma tumours which had gone from the initial site of primary tumor. During study scientists considered the activity of the VDR gene which was cross-referenced with other patient characteristics, using criteria such as the tumor thickness and tumor growth rate(how melanoma cell grew up?) . They also wished to see if the concentration of VDR in human malignant melanoma cells were related to genetic changes that happen once tumours become a lot of aggressive. Researchers then used mice to see whether or not VDR levels modified the cancer’s ability to migrate or spread.

Findings of Research:

After statistical analysis of the data, the research team found that the low levels of VDR within melanoma cells in human tumors grew faster, and had a lower activity of genes that control pathways that help the immune system fight cancer cells. They additionally found that tumors with lower VDR levels likewise had a higher activity of genes connected to malignancy development and spread, particularly those controlling the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway, which helps to promote several biological processes within the cell and tumor growth is one of them.

In mice, it was found that increasing the levels of VDR on the melanoma cells decreased action of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, and hindered the development of the melanoma cells. They additionally found that the malignant growth was less inclined to spread to their lungs.

Conclusion: Vitamin D-VDR signaling inhibits Wnt/beta-catenin-mediated melanoma progression and promotes anti-tumor immunity and increase the survival rate.

Journal reference:

Muralidhar, S., et al. (2019). Vitamin D-VDR signaling inhibits Wnt/beta-catenin-mediated melanoma progression and promotes anti-tumor immunity. 

Cancer Research. DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-3927.