An Unlikely Threesome

Bladder cancer treatment with tuberculosis vaccine and vitamin D

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Hanging laundry out to dry is a time-honored tradition. You can't get fresher smelling laundry, and sunshine really is a great panacea, able to kill even the hardiest bugs.

Researchers presenting at the American Urological Association's annual meeting have found an unlikely combination for the treatment of bladder cancer.

It may not be intuitive at first glance, but by combining an old vaccine and a vitamin, the treatment had significant effects in bladder cancer animal studies.

"Ask your doctor about vitamin supplements."

A group from the University of Rochester's urology department led by Yi-Fen Lee, PhD, found that of the four groups of mice given various combinations of vaccine and vitamin D, the group of mice given the combination all survived the bladder cancer.

It seems a little bit of a stretch, but the evidence from one study suggests that high levels of vitamin D amps up the body's immune system. Somewhat by accident, the vaccine that was originally made for tuberculosis seems to activate an enzyme that enhances the body's production of vitamin D.

Increasing the amount of vitamin D, and then increasing the body's production has a double effect, and the studies from mice were promising enough to begin clinical trials in humans.

Inactivated forms of vitamin D are absorbed from the diet, and activated in the body to a more powerful form by sunlight.

While the tuberculosis vaccine referred to in this study, the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine, is not given in the United States for several reasons, several studies have shown that at best, it works less than half the time.

Several other countries have mandatory tuberculosis vaccines.

The study additionally showed that the large doses of vitamin D improve the response to the vaccine, which could be used in tuberculosis studies as well.

Unlike most vitamins, high doses of vitamin D are kept in the body for longer periods of time, and can have dangerous side effects. Vitamins D, A and E should not be taken without medical supervision.

Research presented at conferences prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal is considered preliminary.

Financial relationships were not disclosed by the authors.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 23, 2012
Last Updated:
August 6, 2012