There have been prior reports of a prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in multiple myeloma patients, but those studies tended to be based on fairly small patient populations. In addition, ‘Recent studies suggest an important role of vitamin D in improving outcomes of patients with cancer’. The current issue of the journal Blood Advances presents data on a cohort of nearly 1,900 racially diverse patients where vitamin D levels were measured and monitored within 2 months following diagnosis.
This study reports a series of interesting points to know for myeloma patients :
- Vitamin D deficiency was observed in 46.3 % of African American and 26.3 % of white myeloma patients, though no statistical differences in this deficiency were observed between female and male patients in a given racial group.
- There was no statistical difference in OS (overall survival) between normal and vitamin D deficient patients in the African American patient group.
- The white patient group, however, showed a statistically significant difference in survival levels between patients with normal and deficient vitamin D levels (median of 3.87 vs. 2.71 years).
- ' … vitamin D level was a significant predictor of survival in white … but not in African American patients.’
The authors state that, although they identified
‘… this important association between vitamin D deficiency and differences in racial outcome, our study does not clarify any specific reason for the decreased survival in white population with deficiency.’ They also suggest ‘… a need to screen patients with multiple myeloma for vitamin D deficiency and consider replacement if deficient.’ [emphasis added].
You may wish to consider discussing the addition of a vitamin D test with your myeloma specialist if such a panel has not yet been part of your myeloma labs and adding vitamin D supplements to your medications if you are deficient in this nutritional vitamin.
You may wish to be aware that there is a Vitamin D2 supplement of 50,000 IU, available by prescription only, taken as a once-weekly capsule. This dose is much higher than the standard D3 400-800 IU dose found in a typical daily multi-vitamin supplement. This medication is NOT reimbursed in the US by Medicare and, depending on which pharmacy chain you visit, will cost you between $ 25 and $ 45 for a 12-week supply. Not a bad deal if it buys you additional time with your family and friends.
about the author
I am a patient diagnosed in 2014 with primary plasma cell leukemia (pPCL), a rare and aggressive variant of multiple myeloma and have been very fortunate to find successful treatment at the division of Cellular Therapy at the Duke University Cancer Institute. My wife, Vicki, and I have two adult children and two grandsons who are the ‘lights of our lives’. Successful treatment has allowed Vicki and I to do what we love best : traveling the world, albeit it with some extra precautions to keep infections away. My career in the pharmaceutical industry has given me insights that I am currently putting to use as an advocate to lower drug pricing, especially prices for anti-cancer drugs. I am a firm believer that staying mentally active, physically fit, compliant to our treatment regimen and taking an active interest in our disease are keys to successful treatment outcomes.