Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Zvi Schwartz, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Daniel E. Conway, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer Koblinski, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Hu Yang, Ph.D.


Over 200,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year. Nearly 20% of these patients supplement their diets with some form of vitamin D. This high frequency of vitamin D supplement use may be due in part to research suggesting that cancer patients with higher serum vitamin D3 levels have better prognoses than patients with low serum vitamin D3. However, double-blind clinical trials on the efficacy of vitamin D3 supplementation in breast cancer have been inconclusive. A recent meta-analysis showed evidence of reduced cancer recurrence in patients taking vitamin D3 supplements who had ‘estrogen receptor positive’ (ERα66+) breast cancer, but not those who had estrogen receptor negative’ (ERα66-) breast cancer.

Once ingested, vitamin D3 is metabolized in the liver into the circulating pre-hormone 25(OH)D3, which is then further metabolized into 1a,25(OH)2D3 and 24R,25(OH)2D3. 24R,25(OH)2D3 has been shown to activate a number of membrane signaling pathways, some of which overlap with 17b-estradiol (E2) signaling through ERα36, a membrane isoform of ERα66. The central hypothesis of this thesis was that 24R,25(OH)2D3 is tumorigenic in certain cancers and that this tumorigenicity is mediated in part by ERa isoforms.

E2 signaling through ERa36 has been described in the ERa66-, ERa36+ breast cancer cell line HCC381. Specific aim 1 determined whether E2 signaling through ERa36 was tumorigenic other cancers with different ERa profiles. Specific aim 2 determined how 24R,25(OH)2D3 affected tumorigenicity in breast cancer using the common breast cancer cell line MCF7 (ERa66+, ERa36+) as a model. Specific aim 3 investigated the role of ERa isoforms in 24R,25(OH)2D3 signaling in breast cancer cell lines by comparing the tumorigenic effects of 24R,25(OH)2D3 in MCF7 cells (ERa66+, ERa36+) and HCC38 cells (ERa66-, ERa36+). To determine whether ERa66 regulates the effects of 24R,25(OH)2D3, ERa66 was expressed in two ERα66- cell lines. The effect of 24R,25(OH)2D3 on apoptosis was assessed in wild-type and ERa-expressing cell lines.


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