The vitamin D receptor (VDR), primarily known as a crucial mediator of calcium homeostasis and metabolism, has been shown to play a significant role in various cancer entities. Previous studies have focused on vitamin D and its receptor in gynecological cancers, noting that the receptor is upregulated in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). The aim of this study is to analyze the prognostic impact of VDR and its functional significance in ovarian cancer. Through immunohistochemistry, VDR staining was examined in 156 ovarian cancer samples. Evaluation of VDR staining was conducted in the nucleus and the cytoplasm using the semi-quantitative immunoreactive score, and the scores were classified into high- and low-level expressions. Expression levels were correlated with clinical and pathological parameters as well as with overall survival to assess for prognostic impact. Differences in cytoplasmic VDR expression were identified between the histological subtypes (p = 0.001). Serous, clear cell, and endometrioid subtypes showed the highest staining, while the mucinous subtype showed the lowest. Cytoplasmic VDR correlated with higher FIGO stage (p = 0.013; Cc = 0.203), positive lymph node status (p = 0.023; Cc = 0.236), high-grade serous histology (p = 0.000; Cc = 0.298) and grading from the distinct histological subtypes (p = 0.006; Cc = - 0.225). Nuclear VDR did not correlate with clinicopathological data. High cytoplasmic expression of VDR was associated with impaired overall survival (HR 2.218, 32.5 months vs. median not reached; p < 0.001) and was confirmed as a statistically independent prognostic factor in the Cox regression multivariate analysis. Additional knowledge of VDR as a biomarker and its interactions within the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway could potentially improve the prognosis of therapeutic approaches for specific subgroups in EOC.
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