Osteoporosis is a complex multi-factorial disease where environment, diet and genetics play a role in determining susceptibility. Patients with existing vertebral fracture have a heightened risk of further recurrent vertebral fracture. The efficacy of new osteoporosis therapies is often compared to calcium supplementation. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (calcitriol) acts through the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and is effective at reducing recurrent vertebral fracture risk. Because the VDR controls calcium metabolism, we hypothesized that genetic variation at the VDR locus may influence response to both calcium and calcitriol therapy. Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis from a 3-year study comparing calcitriol versus calcium for prevention of vertebral fractures were genotyped for VDR alleles detected by FokI, BsmI, ApaI and TaqI. Data were analysed by hierarchical log-linear analysis and robust analysis of variance for relationships to fracture outcomes. Significant differences in the vertebral fracture rate in response to calcium therapy were observed between VDR genotypes (P<0.001). Calcium appeared to be equally effective as calcitriol in particular genotypes. The response to calcitriol therapy was most pronounced in patients carrying the TaqI t allele in combination with the FokI f initiation codon variant: f+t+ carriers were 11.3-fold less likely to sustain recurrent vertebral fracture in the last 2 years of the trial while on calcitriol therapy compared to calcium (P=1.4x10(-5)). Response to both calcium and calcitriol therapy is dependent on genetic variation at the VDR locus and two loci in the VDR gene may contribute to this effect.
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