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Vitamin C may help in cancer treatment

Harold Mandel's picture
Vitamin C rich oranges

Researchers say that cancer treatment may be improved by high doses of vitamin C according to a new human safety trial.


The search for better cancer treatments has been continuing. There has been hope that vitamin C may help in the treatment of cancer.

It is safe to have brain and lung cancer patients regularly infused with high dose vitamin C

Cell Press has reported via EurekAlert that a successful human safety trial has shown that the treatment of cancer may be improved with vitamin C in high doses. It has been found in clinical trials that it is safe to have brain and lung cancer patients regularly infused with vitamin C at 800 -- 1000 times the daily recommended amount as a possible way to improve standard treatment of cancer outcomes.

It appears vitamin C sensitizes cancer cells to radiation and chemotherapy. In the study infusions were used to increase the concentration of vitamin C in the blood of patients to 20,000 μM in comparison to a blood level of about 70 μM which is present in most adults. It is necessary to use such a high dose because there is a half-life of just approximately 2 hours of vitamin C in the circulation of people.

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Treatment with high doses of vitamin C was generally well tolerated

Overall the treatment with high doses of vitamin C was well tolerated. Moderate side effects included dry mouth and going to the bathroom often. In rare cases there was the development of high blood pressure which went down after an infusion.

This approach to improving cancer treatment is interesting because vitamin C is not toxic to normal cells even at high levels. Researchers at University of Iowa observed that unusually high levels of redox active iron molecules seen in tumor tissue react with vitamin C to create hydrogen peroxide and free radicals which are derived from hydrogen peroxide. It is thought that these free radicals cause selective tissue damage to DNA in cancer cells which leads to more death of cancer cells and to increased sensitization to chemotherapy and radiation in cancer cells.

The stage has now been set to determine whether high dose vitamin C is effective at prolonging overall lifespan and quality of life for patients who are being treated with radiation and chemotherapy. Co-senior author Bryan Allen, who was the leader of the clinical part of the study, says that most cancer patients his research team worked with were excited to be able to take part in clinical trials which could benefit outcomes of future patients.

This study has been published in the journal Cancer Cell. Pharmacological vitamin C has been suggested as a possible anti-cancer agent when it is mixed with radiation and chemotherapy. There is promise that vitamin C in high doses may help in the treatment of cancer.