Vitamin C Could Help Cancer Treatment
February 10, 2014

Research Suggests Vitamin C Could Help Cancer Treatment

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Intravenous vitamin C treatments have been found to enhance the cancer cell-killing abilities of traditional chemotherapy in laboratory mice, according to research published in the February 5th edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Furthermore, the study authors recruited 27 patients who had recently been diagnosed with stage 3 or stage 4 ovarian cancer, and found that adding a high dose of the vitamin along with conventional treatments such as paclitaxel or carboplatin reduced those medications’ side effects, reported on Thursday.

While the University of Kansas Medical Center-led research “was too small to assess whether the combination of chemotherapy and vitamin C combats cancer better than chemotherapy alone,” Heidi Ledford of Nature News explained that the “accompanying work in mice suggests that the two treatments could be complementary.”

“The results are the latest salvo in long-running controversy over the use of vitamin C against cancer,” she added. “Early studies championed by Nobel-prizewinning chemist Linus Pauling in the 1970s suggested that vitamin C could help to fight tumors. But larger clinical trials failed to substantiate those claims.”

Now, however, the scientists behind this new study are calling for large-scale government trials to substantiate their findings, according to Helen Briggs of BBC News. It is unlikely that pharmaceutical companies will conduct such an investigation, as vitamins cannot be patented, she added.

Dr. Jeanne Drisko, Director of Integrative Medicine at KU Medical Center and co-author of the study, told Briggs that oncologists were becoming more interested in the use of vitamin C because of patients’ desire for “safe and low-cost choices in their management of cancer. Intravenous vitamin C has that potential based on… our early clinical data.”

However, as lead author Dr. Qi Chen noted, “because vitamin C has no patent potential, its development will not be supported by pharmaceutical companies. We believe that the time has arrived for research agencies to vigorously support thoughtful and meticulous clinical trials with intravenous vitamin C.”

The researchers also pointed out that intravenous administration of the vitamin could be important, due to the different way in which the body processes ascorbate based on how it is taken, Ledford explained. Oral vitamin C doses act as antioxidants and protect cells from damage caused by oxygen-containing reactive compounds, but intravenous vitamin C can have the opposite effect by promoting the formation of hydrogen peroxide.

“Cancer cells are particularly susceptible to damage by such reactive oxygen-containing compounds,” she said. However, researcher Melanie McConnell of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand (who was not involved in the research but had analyzed the impact of vitamin C on cancer cells grown in culture), warned that not all types of cancer might be susceptible to the treatment, since some express low levels of molecular vitamin C transporters.