We would like to begin this article with a brief excerpt from new research that appeared in the medical journal Current Oncology.
“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. “(1) This is a peer reviewed study from 2018.
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.
In this article, we will explore the science supportive of the use of high dose vitamin C in cancer patients.
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 complimentary 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 as a PRO-oxidant
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.
Supportive research – Vitamin C causes Oxidative Stress in Cancer
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.(2)
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.
A 2018 study from published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, (3) 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.
Recent research from doctors in Singapore 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 (4)
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.
Doctors in Korea published findings in which they found:
- “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.
- In their paper that appeared in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, (5) the researchers concluded that “Ascorbic acid markedly reduced cell viability and induced (cancer cell) death.”
Doctors in Portugal found similar findings 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.”(6)
In the journal Current pharmaceutical biotechnology (7) 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.
National Institutes of Health
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.”(8)
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 (9) 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.
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.
Please contact our office if you would like more information.
1 Klimant E, Wright H, Rubin D, Seely D, Markman M. Intravenous vitamin C in the supportive care of cancer patients: a review and rational approach. Curr Oncol. 2018;25(2):139-148.
2 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.
3 Kim TJ, Byun JS, Kwon HS, Kim DY. Cellular toxicity driven by high-dose vitamin C on normal and cancer stem cells. Biochemical and biophysical research communications. 2018 Feb 26;497(1):347-53.
4 Raymond YC, Glenda CS, Meng LK. Effects of High Doses of Vitamin C on Cancer Patients in Singapore: Nine Cases. Integr Cancer Ther. 2016 Jun;15(2):197-204. doi: 10.1177/1534735415622010. Epub 2015 Dec 17.
5 Baek MW, Cho HS, Kim SH, Kim WJ, Jung JY. Ascorbic acid induces necrosis in human laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma via ROS, PKC, and calcium signaling. J Cell Physiol. 2016 May 22. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25438.
6 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.
7 Cieslak JA, Cullen JJ. Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer with Pharmacological Ascorbate. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2015;16(9):759-70.
8 Padayatty SJ, Sun AY, Chen Q, Espey MG, Drisko J, Levine M. Vitamin C: Intravenous Use by Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners and Adverse Effects. Gagnier JJ, ed. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(7):e11414. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011414.
9 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