Vitamin D Deficiency in Pancreatic Cancer

An ASCO® Poster Brief

Brandon G. Smaglo, MD; Katherine Van Loon, MD, MPH


June 24, 2013

Vitamin D Deficiency Prevalent in Cancer Patients

Editor's Note: What could deficiencies in serum levels of vitamin D tell us about pancreatic cancer? Medscape spoke to Katherine Van Loon, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, University of California, San Francisco, who presented a study at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO®) that sought to answer this question.

Medscape: You presented a study examining the levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and survival in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.[1] Obviously, we don't have a lot of good biomarkers in pancreatic cancer. Why pick vitamin D?

Dr. Van Loon: There is a growing body of literature about the role of vitamin D in various cancers.[2] Colorectal cancer is the disease for which we have the most evidence of a possible association with vitamin D deficiency.[3,4]

With regard to pancreatic cancer, we know that the vitamin D receptor is overexpressed in human pancreatic cancer cell lines, compared with normal pancreatic cells.[5] Data from animal and cell-line models also suggest that vitamin D metabolism is important in pancreatic tumor maintenance and may contribute to this tumor's chemoresistance. We were interested in finding out the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer and whether vitamin D levels affect survival.

Medscape: What did you find?

Dr. Van Loon: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and pancreatic cancer patients often present with symptoms of malabsorption. Vitamin D deficiency was highly prevalent in this patient population. Our data were similar to those from cohorts of patients with other cancers. Rates of vitamin D deficiency were particularly high among the black study participants.


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