Vitamin C kills cancer cells

Vitamin C kills cancer cells

Injections of high-dose vitamin C could be an effective, low-cost treatment for ovarian and other cancers, according to new research.


Writing in Science Translational Medicine, US scientists say that high doses of vitamin C can boost the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy in the laboratory tests on human ovarian cancer cells and in experiments on mice.


The scientists from the University of Kansas are calling for large-scale government clinical trials. However pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to run trials, as vitamins cannot be patented. Vitamin C has long been used as an alternative therapy for cancer.


Co-researcher Dr Jeanne Drisko said there was growing interest in the use of vitamin C by oncologists. "Patients are looking for safe and low-cost choices in their management of cancer," she said. "Intravenous vitamin C has that potential based on our basic science research and early clinical data."


One potential hurdle is that pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to fund trials of intravenous vitamin C because there is no ability to patent natural products.


"Because vitamin C has no patent potential, its development will not be supported by pharmaceutical companies," said lead researcher Qi Chen.


"We believe that the time has arrived for research agencies to vigorously support thoughtful and meticulous clinical trials with intravenous vitamin C."


Scientists discovered the therapeutic benefits of vitamin C in the 1970s, when world renowned chemist Linus Pauling reported that vitamin C given intravenously was effective in treating cancer.


However, clinical trials of vitamin C given by mouth failed to replicate the effect, and research was abandoned. It is now known that the human body quickly excretes vitamin C when it is taken by mouth.


However, the Kansas researchers say that when given by injection vitamin C is absorbed into the body, and can kill cancer cells without harming normal ones. The researchers injected vitamin C into human ovarian cancer cells in the lab, into mice, and into patients with advanced ovarian cancer. They found ovarian cancer cells were sensitive to vitamin C treatment, but normal cells were unharmed.


The treatment worked in tandem with standard chemotherapy drugs to slow tumour growth in mouse studies. Meanwhile, a small group of patients reported fewer side-effects when given vitamin C alongside chemotherapy.


By Mark Gould

OnMedica, 10th February 2014

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