Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous cancers people develop, ranking the fourth most common type of cancer that results in mortality. Pancreatic cancer typically has a very poor prognosis: 25% of people survive one year and only 5% live for five years.
By the time an individual develops symptoms, the tumor has already spread. The most common symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer are abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow skin), weight loss, light-colored stools and dark urine.
A recent paper reported on an 83-year-old woman who experienced jaundice, unintentional weight loss and abdominal discomfort. She was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer in January of 2015. The patient underwent one course of chemotherapy before deciding not to undergo anymore chemotherapy. Unknown to her doctor, she started taking 50,000 IU/day of vitamin D in March of 2015 to treat her cancer.
Her initial pancreatic CAT scan showed a 3.6 x 2.7 cm mass in her pancreas with metastasis in her lymph nodes. On 9/4/15, the lesion was slightly smaller, and she was feeling quite well. Her calcium was high normal at 9.6, and her 25(OH)D was reported as >150 ng/ml. She was lost to follow up in January of 2016 after having 8 months of symptom free pancreatic cancer.
The authors state:
“Given the poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer and the limited treatment options for patients, this case should stimulate further investigation. The daily dose of 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 was well tolerated in our patient for over 10 months at the time of writing. Consideration should be given to a clinical trial that evaluates a similar dose.”
Due to the poor prognosis and emotional toll of this disease, pancreatic cancer is a health outcome that urgently requires further research. This case report demonstrates that not everyone who takes 50,000 IU/day will develop hypercalcemia. I agree with the author’s statement that researchers should use pharmacological doses of vitamin D (50,000 to 100,000 IU/day) in a clinical trial. I predict some people will respond to such treatment.