Monday, June 6, 2016

ASCO: Vitamin D and Follicular Lymphoma

Here we go! ASCO research!

Before we get into this, it's worth reminding everyone of whet we're dealing with here. ASCO, the annual meeting of The American Society of Clinical Oncology, is a very important place for cancer researchers to present their findings to other oncologists. However, it is NOT the place where they present their final results. They may get feedback from other oncologists, and they may get people excited about their research, but it needs to go through a peer review process to really be trusted. That's when other experts in their field go through their results and give them a stamp of approval, so they can be published in a medical journal.

That's important to remember. We can get excited about ASCO stuff, but not officially excited.


Up first: "Association of Vitamin D Insufficiency with Inferior Prognosis in Follicular Lymphoma."

This research builds on work that was presented at ASCO in 2012, and then was eventually peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2015. In the earlier work, researchers found that low levels of Vitamin D in patients who had been given Rituxan + chemo resulted in lower Overall Survival. (Of course, that's a statistical analysis, and some patients did not have a lower OS.)

The research being reported on this year asks if low Vitamin D levels are a problem for ALL Follicular Lymphoma patients, no matter what treatments they've had, and not just the R + chemo patients. (It's a recognition that maybe it's the treatment that needs Vitamin D.)

They looked at 659 FL patients, hoping to predict whether low Vitamin D would be able to predict Event Free Survival at 12 Months (that is, they the patient went a year without the FL coming back or getting worse), Overall Survival, and Lymphoma-Specific Survival (that is, that their death was caused by their lymphoma).

They found that 34% of the patients had low Vitamin D levels, and of the 659 patients they looked at, there were 389 events (lymphoma returned or got worse), and 82 deaths (46 due to lymphoma).

For the whole group, low Vitamin D was associated with lower Event Free Survival, Overall Survival, and Lymphoma-Specific Survival.

This was also true for the specific patients who had Rituxan + Chemotherapy.
For patients who were on Watch and Wait, and who take treatments other than Rituxan or R + Chemo, low Vitamin D was associated with lower Overall Survival and Event-Free Survival.
Researchers could not make associations between Low Vitamin D and other treatment groups that were statistically significant.

Their conclusion is that, because there seems to be a connection between Overall Survival and low Vitamin D levels, this is something worth looking into.

Now, personally, I take a Vitamin D supplement every day. A few years ago, I had read enough to suggest that low Vitamin D might cause a bunch of problems, and since I don't stay out in the sun much, I could probably use the extra D. It's easy to find, costs me about $6 a month, and won't hurt if I take it in moderation (and with my doctor's permission).

That certainly doesn't mean that Vitamin D is the reason my lymphoma has stayed pretty stable. I just can't know that. I'm not one to believe in miracle cures, which is why I like seeing research like this. I will keep looking for their peer-reviewed follow-up, and any other research on this subject.

In the meantime, remember that any supplement should only be taken after talking with your doctor. Even Vitamin D has some potential complications for lymphoma patients.

But we can still be hopeful. More ASCO news soon.


NewLymph5/16 said...

Do you take any other supplements?

NewLymph5/16 said...

Do you take any other supplements?

Lymphomaniac said...

I take Vitamin D, fish oil, and a multi-vitamin, but I was taking all of them even before I was diagnosed, not because I thought they would help my cancer. There hasn't been a whole lot of solid research on supplements and cancer, though a lot of people will tell you there has been. It would be great to be able to take a pill every day and think that would ward off cancer, but I think that's wishful thinking. And then there are some supplements that might do harm -- they may interfere with chemo, for example.
Definitely something to talk to your doctor about.