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Q
Studying Supplements to Treat Pancreatic Cancer?
What vitamins or herbs do you suggest taking for cancer of the pancreas?
A
Answer (Published 6/5/2003)

Updated on 7/29/2005

Cancer of the pancreas is very hard to treat with any type of therapy because it usually isn't diagnosed until it is advanced. However, a clinical trial in progress is evaluating a nutritional treatment for pancreatic cancer developed by Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D., a New York physician. The Gonzalez Protocol Trial is a five-year study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), an arm of the National Institutes of Health. It studied patients between the ages of 18 and 65 with stage II, III and IV pancreatic cancers who have had no previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

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Dr. Gonzalez' approach involves administration of pancreatic enzymes orally every four hours and at mealtime for 16 days. Patients also must take up to 150 pills a day including such dietary supplements as magnesium citrate, papaya plus, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and animal glandular products. They also must have daily coffee enemas. The diet Dr. Gonzalez recommends emphasizes fresh raw fruits, raw and lightly steamed vegetables and vegetable juice daily.

In earlier studies, patients on the Gonzalez regimen lived an average of 17.5 months, which is nearly three times the survival period for those with advanced pancreatic cancer. According to the pilot study using Dr. Gonzalez' protocol, nine out of 11 people have survived one year; five have lived for two years; and four patients are still alive after four years. There is even one 75 year old man who has been following the regimen for more than 10 years and is apparently healthy and without any evidence of disease.

Fortunately, cancer of the pancreas is relatively rare. It accounts for only two percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States each year although it causes five percent of all cancer deaths. The one-year survival rate for patients treated with conventional therapy is only 19 percent, while the five year survival rate goes down to only four percent. The disease is more common among men than women and develops more often among African Americans than among any other group.

Risk factors include cigarette smoking, being overweight or obese and having diabetes. Exposures to certain chemicals in the workplace may also increase the risk.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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