Although uterine leiomyomas are benign tumors, its symptoms, including anemia, excessive vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, pressure-related bowel and bladder dysfunction, recurrent miscarriage and preterm labor, can severely negatively impact patients’ quality of life. Since uterine leiomyomas are three to four times more common in African-American patients, and since African-American women have 10 times higher incidence of hypovitaminosis D than white women, researchers sought to explore the impact of vitamin D3 on uterine leiomyomas. Their findings can be found in the Biology of Reproduction.
In this study, Dr. Sunil K Halder, assistant professor in the Center for Women’s Health Research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, and colleagues examined the anti-tumor and therapeutic effects of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on uterine leiomyomas in female Eker rats. The rats were randomly assigned to receive 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (0.5 µg/kg/day) subcutaneously for three weeks or ethylene glycol. At the conclusion of the treatment period, the tumors were examined.
Halder and colleagues found that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 significantly reduced leiomyoma tumor size; when compared to the control group, uterine fibroids in rats in the treatment group shrank by about 75%. They further came to realize that vitamin D suppressed cell growth and proliferation-related genes, anti-apoptotic genes, and estrogen and progesterone(Drug information on progesterone) receptors. In addition, Halder et al. found that this treatment protocol was relatively safe for rats, as it did not induce any macroscopic or microscopic tissue damage or significant changes in serum liver function tests or calcium levels.
Overall, Halder and colleagues believe this study shows that vitamin D3 holds great promise for treating women with uterine leiomyomas. They explained, “[T]his study provides the first preclinical data on the use of 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3-based therapy as an alternative, safe and non-surgical treatment option for uterine leiomyoma and suggests the need for a future pilot clinical trial to verify the utility of this approach in women with symptomatic uterine fibroids.”