Though studies are not conclusive, researchers say vitamin D deficiency may play a role as a potential risk factor for prostate cancer. In fact, massive doses of the vitamin may help treat the disease.
Each week, over a three-hour stretch, Glen Bartz downs a bottle -- 150 -- of highly potent, vitamin D pills. "Five at a time, just toss them in the throat, take a gulp of water, and they're gone," he says.
Then Glen follows it with the chemotherapy drug, taxotere.
He says, "When I started the treatment my, PSA was 18.7."
Four months later, his PSA level, a test to track cancer progression, had dropped to nearly zero.
Glen's wife, Muriel, tells Ivanhoe, "I was delighted, more than surprised -- just very pleased that his PSA went down that much."
"I'm elated, and, at the same time ... very relieved," says Glen.
In a study out of Oregon Health & Science University, 25 percent of patients showed dramatic drops in their PSA levels. Most had their levels drop by 50 percent.
Oncologist Tomasz Beer, M.D., tells Ivanhoe, "Taxotere alone works in about 40 percent of patients, we saw over 80 percent of patients respond to the combination, so we're very encouraged by those earlier results."
Glen's bone scans are also encouraging. A year and a half after starting treatment, the cancer hasn't spread.
Dr. Beer says, "We really think that the vitamin D is having a biologic effect on the cancer that makes it more susceptible then to the chemotherapy that comes along afterwards."
Doctors still need to confirm their findings in a larger study but for Glen, the results are already in.
In the next phase of the study, researchers are recruiting more than 200 patients at about 20 medical centers in the United States.