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The role of vitamin D in cancer cachexia

Penna, Fabioa,b; Camperi, Andreaa; Muscaritoli, Maurizioc; Filigheddu, Nicolettab,d; Costelli, Paolaa,b

Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care: December 2017 - Volume 11 - Issue 4 - p 287–292
doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000302
CACHEXIA, NUTRITION AND HYDRATION: Edited by Aminah Jatoi and Florian Strasser

Purpose of review The possibility to use vitamin D supplementation to improve muscle wasting, with particular focus on cancer cachexia, is discussed.

Recent findings Vitamin D exerts biological actions on myogenic precursor proliferation and differentiation, impinging on muscle regeneration. However, the effects of VitD supplementation in diseases associated with muscle atrophy, such as cancer cachexia, are poorly investigated. Data obtained in experimental models of cancer cachexia show that the administration of vitamin D to tumor-bearing animals is not able to prevent or delay both muscle wasting and adipose tissue depletion, despite increased expression of muscle vitamin D receptor. Not just vitamin D supplementation impairs muscle damage-induced regeneration, suggesting that upregulation of vitamin D receptor signaling could contribute to muscle wasting.

Summary Vitamin D supplementation is likely beneficial to reduce or delay aging-related sarcopenia and osteoporosis, although the available data still put in evidence significant discrepancies. By contrast, VitD supplementation to tumor-bearing animals or to rats with arthritis was shown to be totally ineffective. In this regard, the adoption of VitD treatment in patients with cancer cachexia or other chronic diseases should be carefully evaluated, in particular whenever a regenerative process might be involved.

aDepartment of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Turin

bIstituto Interuniversitario di Miologia (IIM), Turin

cDepartment of Clinical Medicine, Sapienza University, Rome

dDepartment of Translational Medicine, University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy

Correspondence to Paola Costelli, Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, Unit of Experimental Medicine and Clinical Pathology, University of Turin, Corso Raffaello 30, 10125 Turin, Italy. Tel: +39 0116707062; fax: +39 0116707753; e-mail:

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