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May 2009 Issue

Glendon Zinser, PhD, is an associate professor of cancer and cell biology.
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Vitamin D Might Help Prevent Breast Cancer

By Amanda Harper
Published May 2009

Research has shown vitamin D is an essential part of building healthy bones, but could it also help prevent breast cancer?


That’s the question UC cancer cell biologist Glendon Zinser, PhD, hopes to answer in a translational science study currently under way.

Zinser was awarded a pilot grant from Ride Cincinnati in 2008 to investigate the role of vitamin D and fat tissue in breast cancer development, hypothesizing that the active form of the vitamin could help prevent or treat the disease.


Geographical studies have shown that people who live in areas where they are exposed to more sunlight have lower incidence rates of cancer. Sunlight causes the body to produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes good bone health, but Zinser says it also appears to have cancer-preventing characteristics.


Studies have shown the active form of vitamin D can be an effective treatment option for breast cancer cells in the laboratory.


“The real challenge is to figure out how to deliver the active form of vitamin D directly to the human breast cancer cells without disrupting the delicate calcium balance in the body,” explains Zinser, associate professor of cancer and cell biology at UC and researcher with the Cincinnati Cancer Consortium.


“Our findings suggest that adipose (fat) tissue may play an important role in allowing the body to convert the inactive form of vitamin D to the active form that helps control cell growth.


“If this is proven true in preclinical and cellular models, we will have a promising new approach to breast cancer prevention at our disposal,” he adds.

Ride Cincinnati provided pilot grant funding for this study, which allowed Zinser to collect the initial data needed to justify more extensive studies and apply for larger grants.


So far, he has confirmed that adipose tissue is able to convert the inactive form of vitamin D to the active form. The next step is to determine if this active form will alter the growth of normal epithelial cells. If so, he will test whether it can also alter the onset of breast disease.


Support UC Cancer Research  

The annual Ride Cincinnati cycling event to benefit UC cancer research will take place Sunday, June 14, at Yeatman’s Cove/Sawyer Point. Cyclers of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to register and pedal for a good cause: cancer research.


Proceeds from the event will be donated to the UC Barrett Cancer Institute at University Hospital to support local breast cancer clinical, translational and basic research programs, such as Zinser’s study.


Routes start at staggered times beginning at 6:30 a.m. Children up to age 8 can participate in a one-mile Kids Bike Rally ride through Sawyer Point that starts at 11 a.m.


After the Kids Bike Rally, each child will receive a participation medal and can take part in free celebration activities including balloon artists, magicians, a jump house, goodie bags, food and music.


Registered riders are invited to attend a post-event celebration with live music, entertainment, massages and complimentary refreshments. For more information, visit To volunteer, e-mail  


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