Despite all we know about cancer, hundreds of thousands still die from it in the U.S. every year. Conventional therapies, frequently cause patients to suffer unbearable side effects that significantly reduce their quality of life and often without extending it. In this article we will discuss research that suggests that intravenous high dose vitamin C doses can significantly help cancer patients.
We would like to begin this article with a brief excerpt from research that appeared in the medical journal Current Oncology.(1)
“The use of IV(intravenous vitamin) C is a safe supportive intervention to decrease inflammation in the patient and to improve symptoms related to antioxidant deficiency, disease processes, and side effects of standard cancer treatments. . . The role of target vitamin C plasma levels in relation to objective treatment response in humans requires further investigation as well. Although caution is warranted with respect to the use of IV C with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation in the curative setting, vitamin C is a low-cost, safe therapy for the supportive care setting that might be an effective tool for improved supportive care.” This is a peer reviewed study from 2018.
In May 2019, doctors at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, cited this research among others and offered an opinion in the journal Nature reviews. Cancer. (2)
“In this Opinion article, (the researchers) discuss how vitamin C can target three vulnerabilities many cancer cells share: redox imbalance (in simplest terms oxidative stress that overwhelms the immune system), epigenetic reprogramming (what cells may or may not develop into) and oxygen-sensing regulation (a cell’s ability to understand it’s own need for oxygen). Although the mechanisms and predictive biomarkers that we discuss need to be validated in well-controlled clinical trials, these new discoveries regarding the anticancer properties of vitamin C are promising to help identify patient populations that may benefit the most from high-dose vitamin C therapy, developing effective combination strategies and improving the overall design of future vitamin C clinical trials for various types of cancer.” It should be pointed out that this is an opinion that calls for more research into the use of vitamin C as a cancer-fighting agent based on the three vulnerabilities point out in the research that deal with mutation of cells and a cell’s ability to survive).
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, our treatments are focused on reducing inflammation, enhancing the cellular immune response, and towards inactivating cancer stem cells since these are the cells that cause cancer recurrences and are much more harmful than the actual tumor cells—all with the goal of improving quality of life, strength and vigor, and extending life span.
We place particular emphasis on an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and biologic agents that quiet the inflammatory pathways since inflammation has been found to foster the growth of cancer cells.
Administration of intravenous vitamin C is supportive care
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness our cancer program is one of support for primary oncology based cancer treatments. Our treatments therefore are not primary cancer care but secondary and complementary care.
To quote again the research cited above, “Overall, the literature to date has not supported the efficacy of IV vitamin C as monotherapy in anticancer treatment.” (1) Like this research, this article will address the potential value of vitamin C in supportive care.
The research evidence for intravenous vitamin C
In our 30 years experience in the helping patients with various diseases, including cancer, we try to always provide well rounded information. This is especially true when a patient is facing a diagnosis and treatment of a difficult to treat disease. When it comes to cancer, information and research can be conflicting, confusing, and controversial. Much of the research that is considered confusing and controversial surrounds vitamin supplementation. In presenting information we rely on the research and the empirical and clinical observations we have made in our three decades of service.
The anti-oxidant / chemotherapy concern
Many patients come into our office and tell us that his/her oncologist has told them not to take any anti-oxidants during chemotherapy treatments. The traditional thinking, which you will see in new research below is being questioned, is that anti-oxidants interfere with chemotherapy treatment. For many people this is not the case.
When we discuss with patients the possibility of how high dose intravenous vitamin C can help them, we talk about vitamin C’s PRO-oxidant characteristics.
Vitamin C the anti-oxidant as a PRO-oxidant that overwhelms cancer cells
Vitamin C has an alter ego. It is a pro-oxidant. What does this mean? We all know that vitamin C is famous as an anti-oxidant that reduces oxidant levels that lead to inflammation and stress. But in certain instances, vitamin C can produce oxidant stress and increase free radicals. How is this beneficial? Cancer cells live in a toxic micro environment. They are clever at cocooning themselves from therapies designed to kill them by living in this low level oxygen, toxic, free radical environment that they created as a barrier against the immune system.
The idea in pro-oxidant research is that cancer cells cannot handle a sudden burst of free radicals looking to share this welcoming toxic environment the cancer has created. The cancer cells would be “over run,” with increasing free radicals numbers. The cancer cells would then die or be severely injured. The pro-oxidant cancer strategy is a white paper article that we will soon be publishing. In that paper we will go much deeper into this subject.
Vitamin C is targeting excessive oxidant damage against the cancer cells, killing them, while they shut off cancer’s high demand need for energy
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers published findings on the role of oxidized vitamin C or dehydroascorbate (DHA) in inducing oxidative stress and cell death in cancer cells. Dehydroascorbate (DHA) is a remarkable compound in the body. It is vitamin C (ascorbic acid) that is “oxidized” or exposed to oxygenation.
This research appeared in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.(3) Research like that here and other studies tell us that the real news is that high levels of vitamin C show cytotoxicity (is toxic) to cancerous cells through generating excessive ROS (Reactive oxygen species) and blocking the energy homeostasis. What does this mean?
In the simplest terms think of ROS as oxidative damage.
You take anti-oxidants to protect yourself from oxidant damage. Here the vitamin C is targeting excessive oxidant damage against the cancer cells, killing them, while they shut off cancer’s high demand need for energy. Cancer needs energy to support growth. Now here is something more, it involves cancer stem cells.
Vitamin C targets cancer stem cells
Cancer stem cells are where mutations are born. Cancer stem cells are cancer cells that differentiate (change and mutate), and cause tumour growth and heterogeneity (cancer characteristic changes within each patient. The mutations make sustained chemotherapy and conventional cancer treatment difficult). Cancer uses its stem cells to react to treatments. If an effective treatment is damaging a tumor, the cancer stem cells change the tumor to something more resistant to that medication or treatment.As research suggests: “conventional cancer treatments target the bulk of the tumor and are unable to target cancer stem cells due to their highly resistance nature, leading to metastasis and tumor recurrence.”(4)
A 2018 study from published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications,(5) identified that high-dose vitamin C shows cellular toxicity on proliferating cancer stem cells. They also demonstrated that undifferentiated cancer stem cells are sensitive to vitamin C-driven DNA damage raising a possibility that vitamin C may be used to target cancer stem cells.
A January 2020 (6) study suggests:
“While research in cancer has largely focused on the neoplasm/tumor and the cancerous cells that make up the tumor, more recently, the existence, proliferation, differentiation, migration and invasion of cancer stem cells and the role that cancer stem cells play in tumor initiation, progression, metastasis, drug resistance and relapse/recurrence of the disease has gained widespread interest in cancer research.
Although the conventional therapeutic approaches such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are effective cancer treatments, very often these treatment modalities fail to target the cancer stem cells, which then later become the source of disease recurrence.
Studies have reported that intravenous administration of vitamin C at pharmacological doses selectively kills tumor cells and targets cancer stem cells when administered along with chemotherapeutic drugs. . . vitamin C plays an important role in targeting cancer stem cells and its possible use as an adjuvant, neoadjuvant or co-treatment in the treatment of cancers.”
Killing cancer cells, stopping cancer growth, reducing the inflammation rich environment cancer loves
Recent research (7) suggest there is increasing evidence that intravenous vitamin C is selectively toxic to some types of tumor cells by inducing tumor cell apoptosis (death), inhibiting angiogenesis (cancer growth), and reducing inflammation. In this study published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies, the pro-oxidant effects of vitamin C suggested
patients had improvement in quality of life,
safe co-administration with and improved tolerance of conventional therapy,
and when the vitamin C therapy was withdrawn, deterioration in clinical condition followed.
Vitamin C cuts off cancer’s blood supply
In the colon:
In the Journal of Cellular Physiology (8) doctors wrote: “Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) induces apoptosis, autophagy, and necrotic cell death in cancer cells.” Apoptosis is “programmed cell death.” Autophagy, in simple terms, is the clean up of a toxic environment, in this case, a cancer supportive environment. Necrotic cell death is a means of killing cancer cells by cutting off blood supply. The researchers concluded that “Ascorbic acid markedly reduced cell viability and induced (cancer cell) death.”
Doctors in Portugal found similar findings (9) in study colon cancer: “. . . results showed that pharmacological concentrations of Ascorbic acid induce anti-proliferative, cytotoxic and genotoxic effects on three colon cancer cell lines under study.” This research on colon cancer was supported by a September 2018 study (10) which suggested: “At the clinical level, acorbic acid (vitamin C) is associated with tumor regression in advanced disease and improved tolerability and side effects of standard therapy.”
In the pancreas:
In the journal Current pharmaceutical biotechnology (11) The prognosis for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer remains dismal, with less than 3% survival at 5 years. Recent studies have demonstrated that high-dose, intravenous pharmacological ascorbate (ascorbic acid, vitamin C) induces cytotoxicity and oxidative stress selectively in pancreatic cancer cells vs. normal cells, suggesting a promising new role of ascorbate as a therapeutic agent.
This above study from 2015 was supported by 2019 research (12) which suggested that high dose vitamin C could kill cancer cells in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
An October 2020 (13) study found Pharmacological ascorbate (high-dose, intravenous vitamin C) is cytotoxic to tumor cells in doses achievable in humans. Phase I studies in pancreatic cancer utilizing high-dose, intravenous vitamin C− have demonstrated increases in progression free survival, suggesting a reduction in metastatic disease burden.
National Institutes of Health – Ten years of research 2010-2020
In 2010 paper, doctors at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America, wrote that doctors should explore the use of high dose vitamin C in patients with cancer, chronic, untreatable, or intractable conditions and observe the clinical benefits and/or side effects and interactions with chemotherapy. The suggestion came upon the observation that “high dose intravenous vitamin C appears to be remarkably safe.”(14)
The list of medical citations supporting the use of high-dose intravenous vitamin C are both numerous and date back to the 1970’s. In the online book High-Dose Vitamin C (PDQ®) Health Professional Version PDQ Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine Editorial Board – Updated Dec 2015 – a brief summary of the history of research is given.
The earliest experience of using high-dose vitamin C (intravenous [IV] and oral) for cancer treatment was by a Scottish surgeon, Ewan Cameron, and his colleague, Allan Campbell, in the 1970s.This work led to a collaboration between Cameron and the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, further promoting the potential of vitamin C therapy in cancer management.
Pharmacokinetic studies later revealed substantial differences in the maximum achieved blood concentrations of vitamin C based on the route of administration. When vitamin C is taken orally, plasma concentrations of the vitamin are tightly controlled, with a peak achievable concentration less than 300 µM. However, this tight control is bypassed with IV administration of the vitamin, resulting in very high levels of vitamin C plasma concentration.Further research suggests that pharmacologic concentrations of ascorbate, such as those achieved with IV administration, may result in cell death in many cancer cell lines.
Realistic observations on High Dose IV Vitamin C
In August 2018, researchers published a review of the administration of high dose vitamin C in the journal Frontiers in physiology (15). These are some of the observations published:
Do oncology patients have compromised vitamin C status?
Yes, studies consistently show that patients with cancer have lower mean circulating vitamin C levels than healthy volunteers. These patients also exhibit higher rates of hypovitaminosis C and deficiency. Furthermore, chemotherapy can impact negatively on the vitamin C status of oncology patients. Because of vitamin C’s supportive functions in the body, increasing the vitamin C status of oncology patients is likely to be of benefit.
Does intravenous vitamin C interfere with chemotherapy or radiotherapy?
Clinical trials indicate that intravenous vitamin C does not adversely interfere with chemotherapy and pre-clinical studies indicate that it may in fact act synergistically in combination with different chemotherapeutic agents. There is as yet limited research around interference with radiotherapy, with conflicting results likely due to the timing of the interventions.
Does intravenous vitamin C decrease the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and improve quality of life?
Both pre-clinical and clinical studies indicate that intravenous vitamin C can decrease the off-target toxicity of chemotherapeutic agents, likely through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, without affecting the anti-cancer activities of the chemotherapeutic agents. The reduction in specific chemotherapy-related side-effects results in an overall improvement in the health-related quality of life of oncology patients.
Why Should Vitamin C be Used in Breast Cancer Therapy?
A November 2020 (16) study asked the above question rhetorically: “Why Should Vitamin C be Used in Breast Cancer Therapy?”
The answer: “Several publications indicate the role of vitamin C as a therapeutic compound in cancer patients, including breast cancer. In particular, the effects of vitamin C treatment were effective in reducing pain, increasing Quality of Life, and increasing appetite. Furthermore, some patients increased their survival time, and vitamin C was an alternative therapeutic strategy for those suffering from chemotherapy. Vitamin C seems to act by reducing oxidative stress, which is one of the most relevant side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In fact, the metabolism of tumor cells, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy increase the level of ROS, inducing oxidative stress. The level of vitamin C is related to the stage of the disease; patients with an higher stage of disease showed a lower level of vitamin C, whereas patients with a lower stage of disease showed a higher level of vitamin C. An interesting study was performed to evaluate the effects of intravenous vitamin C on patients with primary non-metastasized breast cancer treated with antineoplastic drugs. The efficacy of intravenous vitamin C treatment was equivalent to those obtained with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but with no side-effects. As reported previously, the patients treated with intravenous vitamin C had a better Quality of Life that could improve the immune system. A meta-analysis study of vitamin C and survival among women with breast cancer concluded that post-diagnosis therapy with vitamin C may be related to a reduced risk of mortality. Vitamin C administration can significantly reduce the risk of mortality, including the mortality specifically caused by breast cancer.
Do you have questions?
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, most of our patients have already been through the rigors of conventional treatments but either experienced untoward side effects or unsatisfactory outcomes as the cancer continued to grow. The sooner we begin treatment, the better, since there is usually less damage to the immune system and to the vital organs. Your body then has a better chance to recover.
Our program emphasizes the concept of Thriving While Surviving. We strive to transform cancer from an acute disease into more of a chronic illness, one that can be lived with for many months or even years. Some of our patients have greatly outlived their life expectancy by even two or three-fold. Furthermore, most are able to continue with a productive and fulfilling life.
If you would like to explore more information, please contact our office so we can start a conversation with you.
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2 Ngo B, Van Riper JM, Cantley LC, Yun J. Targeting cancer vulnerabilities with high-dose vitamin C. Nature Reviews Cancer. 2019 Apr 9:1.
3 Zhang ZZ, Lee EE, Sudderth J, et al. Glutathione Depletion, Pentose Phosphate Pathway Activation, and Hemolysis in Erythrocytes Protecting Cancer Cells from Vitamin C-induced Oxidative Stress. J Biol Chem. 2016 Oct 28;291(44):22861-22867. Epub 2016 Sep 22.
4 Ayob AZ, Ramasamy TS. Cancer stem cells as key drivers of tumour progression. J Biomed Sci. 2018;25(1):20. Published 2018 Mar 6. doi:10.1186/s12929-018-0426-4
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9 Pires AS et al. Ascorbic acid and colon cancer: an oxidative stimulus to cell death depending on cell profile. Eur J Cell Biol. 2016 Jun-Jul;95(6-7):208-18. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2016.04.001. Epub 2016 Apr 6.
10 Vissers MCM, Das AB. Potential Mechanisms of Action for Vitamin C in Cancer: Reviewing the Evidence. Front Physiol. 2018;9:809. Published 2018 Jul 3. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00809
11 Cieslak JA, Cullen JJ. Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer with Pharmacological Ascorbate. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2015;16(9):759-70.
12 Alexander MS, O’Leary BR, Wilkes JG, Gibson AR, Wagner BA, Du J, Sarsour E, Hwang RF, Buettner GR, Cullen JJ. Enhanced Pharmacological Ascorbate Oxidation Radiosensitizes Pancreatic Cancer. Radiat Res. 2019 Jan;191(1):43-51. doi: 10.1667/RR15189.1. Epub 2018 Oct 30. PMID: 30376411; PMCID: PMC6441967.
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15 Carr AC, Cook J. Intravenous Vitamin C for Cancer Therapy – Identifying the Current Gaps in Our Knowledge. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1182. Published 2018 Aug 23. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01182
16 Codini M. Why Vitamin C Could Be an Excellent Complementary Remedy to Conventional Therapies for Breast Cancer. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020 Jan;21(21):8397.