OHSU Studying Vitamin D as Treatment for Prostate Cancer

11/10/99    Portland, Ore.

Researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University are examining the idea that vitamin D may stop the progression, or possibly destroy, prostate cancer.

Through a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, oncologists Tomasz Beer, M.D., and David Henner, M.D., Ph.D., are giving patients with recurring cancer high doses of an active form of the vitamin each week and monitoring their disease level.

"High levels of vitamin D work to inhibit the growth of this cancer in the laboratory," said Beer. "In an earlier study we found that weekly dosing can produce these high levels of vitamin D in the blood of patients and is safe. What we want to establish now is that regular doses of the vitamin can keep the disease under control over the long term."

The study is looking specifically at patients who received initial treatment for their cancer, but had the disease return. "At this stage, these men would be looking at hormone treatments or aggressive chemotherapy, which have severe side effects," said Beer.

Instead, the hope is to use vitamin D to delay aggressive treatment. "We don't really expect to eradicate the disease - that would be great, but we hope to stop it in its tracks," Beer said.

If the study shows that long-term use of vitamin D poses no risk, patients could theoretically stay on this treatment the rest of their lives to keep the cancer from progressing.

Beer said they are looking for a total of 25 patients to complete the study.