Vitamin D May Improve Outcomes of Immunotherapy for Advanced Skin Cancer


Findings from a recent study indicated that vitamin D levels in patients with advanced skin cancer may impact their response to immunotherapy medications. 

Published in the journal, Cancer, the study found patients with advanced melanoma and normal baseline levels of vitamin D, or normal levels obtained through supplementation, had higher response rates to immunotherapy and prolonged progression-free time compared to patients with low levels of vitamin D undergoing the same treatment.

Led by Ɓukasz Galus, MD, of Poznan University of Medical Sciences, in Poland, the study sought to better understand the impact of vitamin D on immune checkpoint inhibitors. To do so, Galus and a team of researchers analyzed the blood of 200 patients with advanced melanoma before and after every 12-week treatment of immunotherapy. Patients were split into two groups. Those with normal baseline vitamin D levels or normal levels obtained through supplementation were in one group and patients with low vitamin D levels were in the other.

Through blood analysis, researchers observed a favorable response rate to immune checkpoint inhibitors in the group with normal levels of vitamin D at 56 percent. The group with low levels of vitamin D had a lower response rate at 36.2 percent. 

In addition, the investigation showed the group with normal vitamin D levels had a progression-free survival time of 11.25 months, whereas the group with low vitamin D levels had only 5.25 months. Overall survival time was also longer in patients with normal vitamin C levels than those with low levels by approximately 4.5 months.

According to Galus, while vitamin D does not appear to treat cancers on its own, these results indicate that maintaining normal vitamin D levels in patients with advanced skin cancer may improve their response to other treatments like immunotherapy.

“Of course, vitamin D is not itself an anti-cancer drug, but its normal serum level is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, including the response that anti-cancer drugs like immune checkpoint inhibitors affect,” said Galus. “In our opinion, after appropriately randomized confirmation of our results, the assessment of vitamin D levels and its supplementation could be considered in the management of melanoma.”