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Vitamin C may a natural remedy to help beat leukemia

Harold Mandel's picture
Checking a blood sample

Using vitamin C with standard treatment in patients suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) may improve the therapy’s effectiveness.


Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are very challenging conditions which can be difficult to treat. Researchers have discovered that adding vitamin C with a chemotherapeutic agent in patients who are suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia may enhance the ability of the therapy to combat cancers.

A clinical trial is being done to assess the safety and effectiveness of this treatment

This positive effect of vitamin C for treatment of these blood conditions has thus far only been shown in cell lines. There is a pilot clinical trial being done to further investigate how safe and effective this therapy actually is. The researchers have urged patients to be patient as they wait for the clinical trial results.

It appears that a very simple adjustment to the therapeutic regimen for patients may improve the standard treatment for myeloid dysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia. New findings by researchers have shown that in lab studies supplementing a cancer drug with vitamin C improves the drug’s ability to undermine cancer cell growth and to set off cellular self-destruction in cancer cell lines.

Many cancer patients are deficient in vitamin C

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The pilot clinical trial which is based on this work is being done with adult patients at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this trial a cancer drug called azacitidine, which is the standard of care therapy, is being combined with vitamin C. There is a deficiency of vitamin C in many cancer patients. With the proposed therapy the aim is to correct this vitamin C deficiency instead of overloading patients with vitamin C.

Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc., who is the co-senior author of this study, says the researchers have plans for a larger clinical trial aimed at exploring the potential of the strategy for a good way to improve existing therapy for these conditions if the pilot trial meets with success. This proposed strategy is a reflection of a continuing move in the direction of combination therapies.

It is exciting that there may be a simple approach to help patients

The trial was led by Kirsten Grønbæk, M.D., DMSc., who is the chief hematologist and professor at University of Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet. Dr. Grønbæk has said there is promise to this type of combination therapy, however there is more work necessary in order to determine its safety and efficacy. He is urging patients to wait for the results of the clinical trial and to discuss dietary and supplement changes with their physicians. However he thinks it is really exciting that there may be such a simple approach to help patients fight MDS and AML.

This study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research has shown there is remarkable synergy between physiological levels of vitamin C and 5-aza-CdR. This is very interesting in view of the fact that vitamin C deficiency which is seen in patients with cancer may complicate various types of therapy. The correction of vitamin C deficiency in patients suffering from hematological and other cancers may improve responses to treatment.

It has been estimated that 13,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with MDS every year and about 20,000 people are diagnosed with AML. At this time only about 50 percent of patients respond to the standard therapy alone.
Myelodysplastic Syndromes refer to a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which there are not enough healthy blood cells produced by the bone marrow reports the MDS Foundation. This disorder progresses to acute myeloid leukemia in about 30 percent of patients.

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and of the blood reports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Without treatment this condition progresses very rapidly. It can be very difficult to treat. The combined therapy approach using the natural remedy vitamin C with standard treatment may offer new hope for patients with this illness.