By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The power of vitamin D.  It’s showing promise in helping local patients battle one of the deadliest cancers.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on how it works.

Vitamin D, which comes from the sun, is known to make bones stronger and boost the immune system.  Now Philadelphia researchers are testing it to help fight cancer.

A special formulation of vitamin D is believed to be helping New Jersey resident Kris Van Orden battle stage 2 pancreatic cancer.

“It’s just very exciting to not have a death sentence hanging over my head,” said Kris.

“This is something totally novel in pancreatic cancer.  It’s uh I believe it will usher in a new way of treating the disease,” said Dr. Peter O’Dwyer, an oncologist at Penn Medicine.  He’s testing vitamin D injections in conjunction with aggressive chemotherapy.  He hopes the vitamin can make the therapy more effective against what’s a typically hard to treat disease.

“More than 50 percent of patients relapse later, so we know that pancreatic tumor has already spread even when we see patients who are eligible for surgery,” said Dr. O’Dwyer.

A new study published in the journal “Cell” shows the vitamin chemo combo is very promising.  It’s believed the supplement can help break down the extra layer of cells that surround and fuel pancreatic cancer.

“By making those support cells less active then the tumor cells become more sensitive to the chemotherapy,” said Dr. O’Dwyer.

Doctors think the vitamin D and chemo combination can help shrink tumors before surgery.

“I just think it’s amazing,” said Kris.  Now she’s looking forward to moving past this ordeal.

“I’m looking forward to 20 more years after this now with my grandchildren,” said Kris.

Patients in the study undergo the combo therapy the month before surgery and for a couple of months following.

This study is for patients who don’t have metastatic cancer.

Kris is starting radiation treatments next week.

Penn Medicine Oncology-

Stephanie Stahl