Study shows benefits of vitamin C in treating cancer
Does vitamin C have a role in the treatment of cancer?
The answer may be yes.
Although the use of intravenous vitamin C by those with a diagnosis of cancer is considered, by traditional medicine, an ineffective and possibly dangerous therapy, there is accumulating medical research that intravenous vitamin C may improve outcomes. A recent medical study evaluating the effect of adding intravenous vitamin C during chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer demonstrated significant benefits.
Vitamin C was discovered in 1912 and was the first vitamin to be made in the laboratory. It is on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines as the most effective and safe medicine. Vitamin C is not really a vitamin but an essential nutrient for the repair of tissue damage and the production of specific neurotransmitters. It is also essential for the processes by which white blood cells kill bacteria and cancer cells. It is commonly considered a potent antioxidant. Although it is on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines, its antioxidant activity is what concerns oncologists the most.
Interestingly, the clinical use of intravenous vitamin C has a long history in traditional medicine. It had been used in the treatment of viral infections decades before the discovery of anti-viral medications. It also had been shown to be effective in preventing the life-altering effects of polio. Today it is commonly used in nontraditional medicine in the treatment of cancer.
Many chemotherapies have pro-oxidant properties that are effective against rapidly growing cells like cancer cells. Theoretically using antioxidant compounds may protect cancer cells from the pro-oxidant effects of chemotherapy drugs.
Laboratory experiments in mice and rats seemed to show that antioxidants may protect cancer cells from chemotherapy medications suggesting that antioxidants are contraindicated with chemotherapy. However, clinical trials have not confirmed these laboratory results.
Indeed, at high doses, vitamin C can act also as a pro-oxidant and as a generator of cancer-killing hydrogen peroxide, potentially enhancing the cancer-killing effects of chemotherapy. One mouse ovarian cancer study in 2014 demonstrated that vitamin C not only enhanced the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel, but also reduced chemotherapy-associated toxicity in patients with ovarian cancer.
A recent phase I human trial (2018) published in the medical journal Cancer Research evaluated the effect of intravenous vitamin C and usual traditional therapy on advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The study demonstrated that intravenous vitamin C in combination with the usual chemotherapy (gemcitabine) and radiation therapy almost doubled survival time (21.7 months compared to 12.7 months) and the time of no progression of disease increased threefold compared to their control (13.7 months vs 4.6 months).
In addition, the intravenous vitamin C protected normal cells from the toxic effects of radiation therapy. Their conclusions were that intravenous vitamin C aids in the killing of pancreatic cancer cells and protects normal cells from radiation therapy damage " … making it an optimal agent …" in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
• Dr. Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village. His website is www.alt-med.org.