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Insufficient vitamin D levels are bad for CLL patients, according to a new Mayo Clinic study…

Posted Dec 02 2010 10:08am

Earlier today, while taking a break from work zzzyawnzzz, I happened to read about a recent Mayo Clinic study on vitamin D levels in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (=CLL) patients. Well, how coincidental is that (see yesterday’s post…)??!!!

Let’s start with the Science Daily report on this study:  Here we find out that patients with insufficient levels of vitamin D when their leukemia was diagnosed progressed much faster and were about twice as likely to die as were patients with adequate levels of vitamin D. This study shows that, for the first time ever, CLL patients may be able to put the brakes on their progression, at least to some extent (note the use of the conditional tense…). Wowsie!

Well, I can safely say that if I had CLL I wouldn’t sit around and wait for the results of the Mayo CLL-vitamin D study. Nope. I would skedaddle down to the nearest lab to have my vitamin D levels tested and, if these turned out to be low, I would buy myself a good vitamin D supplement…

Besides, Dr. Shanafelt, the Mayo study’s main investigator, seems to give CLL patients the go-ahead…He is quoted as saying: “It appears vitamin D levels may be a modifiable risk factor for leukemia progression. It is simple for patients to have their vitamin D levels checked by their physicians with a blood test,” he says. “And if they are deficient, vitamin D supplements are widely available and have minimal side effects.”

Here is the direct link to the Mayo abstract, published in “Blood”:  Note this: after median follow-up of three years, more patients in the insufficient vitamin D category progessed and had to begin chemotherapy (=they had a shorter TTT or time-to-treatment), and their overall survival was also negatively affected. A median follow-up of 9.9 years showed the exact same results. Conclusion: Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with inferior TTT and OS in CLL patients. Whether normalizing vitamin D levels in deficient CLL patients would improve outcome merits clinical testing. Good point. [OS = overall survival, by the way.]

Let’s now take a few minutes to listen to what Dr. Shanafelt has to say:  I thought it was interesting that, among other things, he talked about how difficult it is, emotionally, for CLL patients to be in the “watch and wait” category and be told that there is nothing they can do to stop their progression. Patients want to be proactive, he says…Hmmm, now doesn’t sound familiar?

Well, by having their vitamin D levels tested, CLL patients can certainly make a first step towards…proactiveness. Dr. Shanafelt points out that between 30-40% of the CLL patients in the study were found to be vitamin D deficient. And their cancer was more aggressive compared to that of normal vitamin D CLL patients. What remains to be established, he adds, is if this aggressiveness can be blocked by adding vitamin D (as we read in the abstract).

Okay, so let’s see…

1. CLL patients with vitamin D deficiencies were 66% more likely to progress and need chemotherapy…

2. And twice as likely to die

3. And this is a Mayo Clinic study…

Ehm, would the IOM committee of experts (see yesterday’s rant) perhaps care to amend its vitamin D recommendations? …

Written by Margaret

December 2nd, 2010 at 8:08 am

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