Immunotherapy: Harvard Researchers Say Vitamin D Can Help Prevent Colitis Caused By Anti-Cancer Immunotherapy
: Researchers from Harvard Medical School in new study they recently conducted are saying that taking vitamin D supplements may help prevent a potentially serious side effect of a revolutionary form of anti-cancer therapy known as immunotherapy. This is typical side-effect is the inflammation of the colon or colitis.
Therapeutically, immune checkpoint inhibitors help the immune system recognize and combat cancer cells, and although these treatments have helped many patients and have prolonged lives, they can cause side effects such as colitis, an inflammatory reaction in the colon.
Dr Osama Rahma, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, in Boston and corresponding author of the study, told Thailand Medical News, "Immune checkpoint inhibitor-induced colitis can limit the use of such life-saving drugs leading to discontinuation of treatment. While it is one of the most common and severe adverse events of immunotherapy, there is a lack of understanding of the risk factors that could be modified to prevent colitis."
The research findings were published in Cancer
, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS). https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cncr.32966
The researchers conducted a study that examined whether taking vitamin D supplements might reduce the risk of colitis in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat their cancer. The team chose this strategy because previous studies have found that vitamin D may affect the immune system in cases of autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel disease.
The research included information on 213 patients with melanoma who received immune checkpoint inhibitors between 2011 and 2017. Thirty-seven (17 percent) of these patients developed colitis. Sixty-six patients in the study (31 percent) took vitamin D supplements before starting treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
It was observed that patients who took vitamin D had 65 percent lower odds of developing colitis, after adjustments for confounding factors. These findings were validated in another group of 169 patients, of whom 49 (29 percent) developed colitis. In this validation group, use of vitamin D was linked with 54 percent lower odds of developing colitis.
Dr Rahma added, "The findings of a link between vitamin D intake and reduced risk for colitis could potentially impact practice if validated in future prospective studies. Vitamin D supplementation should be tested further to determine if it could be a safe, easily accessible, and cost-effective approach towards preventing immunotherapy's gastrointestinal toxicity and extending the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment in cancer patients."
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