New Cancer Treatment Weapon – Vitamin C

New evidence has been released that high doses of intravenous vitamin C may kill cancer cells. In a new article released in the Science Translational Medicine journal on Monday, researchers reported that vitamin C, when given intravenously, killed cancer cells in mice and showed other positive benefits in humans.

When given to mice, the high-doses of vitamin C were observed to shrink tumours. It is thought that vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid or “ascorbate”) when given in a “mega-dose” can cause a pro-oxidative effect. The hydrogen peroxide then assisted in destroying the cancerous cells.

The biomedical researchers treated ovarian cancer cells in the laboratory. At the molecular level it was found that pro-oxidation around the cancer cells led to the formation of hydrogen peroxide.

The research showed good potential in humans

In the human trial portion of the research, 27 women with either Stage 3 or Stage 4 ovarian cancer were recruited. The patients received conventional chemotherapy drugs, such as paclitaxel or carboplatin, but some of the patients also received treatment with vitamin C as well. The patients who received the vitamin C reported lower toxic side effects from their chemotherapy treatment, such as pain. The patients are now being followed for 5 years to record their long-term progress.

Although vitamin C is an essential vitamin, humans cannot synthesise it in their bodies. As humans possess the DNA to synthesise their own vitamin C, yet the enzyme required to catalyse the reaction has been lost over time, it is often postulated that humans evolved in an environment that provided an abundance of dietary vitamin C. A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to disease states such as scurvy.

No longer an alternative cancer treatment in future

Intravenous vitamin C has long been used as a complementary or alternative cancer treatment. So far, the research into vitamin C use in cancer has been limited, and at one stage went out of favour with the medical community due to its low efficacy if given orally. This report shines new light on vitamin C once again and its possible effectiveness in treating cancer if given directly into the vein (intravenously).

Older studies exist using intravenous vitamin C in the treatment of certain types of cancers, yet not enough evidence currently exists to push this treatment into mainstream oncology.

References:

Ma et al. (2014). High-dose parenteral ascorbate enhanced chemosensitivity of ovarian cancer and reduced toxicity of chemotherapy. Sci Transl Med. Feb 5:6(222)

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