It’s official: Vitamin C can not only be safely combined with conventional cancer treatment, but it can lead to better survival outcomes, and a longer life, for people suffering from glioblastoma – a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. In research published just last month, researchers used doses of vitamin C that were from 800 to 1,000 times higher than the recommended daily amount – all without major adverse effects. The only question, now, is when will
Western medicine fully embrace the use of vitamin C for cancer patients?
Nine-month study explored effects of high-dose vitamin C on brain cancer In a Phase I safety trial published last month in Cancer Cell, researchers at the University of Iowa gave brain cancer patients three infusions of vitamin C a week for two months, then two infusions a week for seven months. Patients also received standard cancer care, including radiation and chemotherapy. With a half-life of only two hours in humans, vitamin C must be used in large amounts to achieve the high blood concentrations necessary for therapeutic effects. In this study, the researchers wanted to raise the participants’ blood concentrations of vitamin C to a sky-high 2,000 micromoles – in contrast to the 70 micromoles normally found in adults. Natural health experts have long insisted that vitamin C must be administered in high doses in order to be successful, and attribute the sometimes-disappointing results of anti-cancer vitamin C studies to insufficient doses.
The key question: What did the study show?
The results of the Phase I safety trial were extremely encouraging. Patients experienced an increase in overall survival time of 4 to 6 months – thereby allowing them to survive for a total of 18 to 22 months – almost two years – as opposed to the typical 14 to 16 months. Researchers noted that the vitamin C was well tolerated, and featured only minor side effects such as dry mouth – along with rare, fleeting episodes of elevated blood pressure. Calling the results “promising,” the study authors said they were “guardedly optimistic” about vitamin C’s cancer-fighting potential — pending the results of the Phase II trials. (of course, one can only wonder how these patients would have done with additional non-toxic cancer therapies)
Vitamin C works against cancer by selectively targeting the “Achilles heel” of cancer cells
According to researchers, a specific pathway of altered iron metabolism in cancer cells gives them a fatal weakness that allows vitamin C to sensitize them to radiation and chemotherapy – triggering their death, while making remaining cells more susceptible to standard cancer treatment. The key to vitamin C’s powers is the fact that it is a “redox active” compound, making it effective on tumor tissues – which have unusually high levels of redox active iron molecules caused by abnormal mitochondrial metabolism. These molecules react with vitamin C to form hydrogen peroxide and accompanying free radicals, which then cause damage to the DNA of cancer cells – all without harming normal, healthy cells.
Earlier studies support vitamin C’s cancer-fighting effects
Although this is the most recent study on vitamin C’s cancer-fighting powers, it is by no means the only one. Past research has shown that a combination of intravenous high-dose vitamin C and chemotherapy drugs helped to slow the progression of cancer, while alleviating side effects of chemotherapy drugs. In a 2015 study conducted at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, researchers found that high-dose vitamin C caused oxidative damage in cancer cells, resulting in impaired tumor growth in colorectal tumors. And, it used an interesting mechanism to do so. Normally, a small amount of vitamin C always becomes oxidized into dehydroascorbic acid, or DHA, which acts as a “Trojan horse” in cancer cells. As DHA, it can freely enter cancer cells – something that doesn’t happen with ascorbic acid.
The cancer cells automatically try to convert the DHA back to ascorbic acid – but deplete their antioxidants and die in the process. Because glucose transport protein helps with the entry of DHA into cells, researchers believe that high-dose vitamin C may work particularly well on cancer cells – such as the KRAS- and BRAF- mutant cells of colorectal cancer, that have high levels of this protein.
Phase II clinical trials are the next step for high-dose vitamin C
Research into vitamin C’s anticancer effects is ongoing, with researchers currently enrolling patients with Stage 4 lung cancer and glioblastoma in Phase II clinical trials. In Phase II studies, patients receive the highest dose of the treatment that did not cause harmful effects in the Phase 1 section.
As with the Phase I trial, researchers are eager find out more about vitamin C’s ability to extend lifespan and improve quality of life for patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Incidentally, the entire nine-month protocol of vitamin C treatment carried an $8,000 price tag above standard insurance billing – less than the cost of a single dose of some immunotherapy and chemotherapy drugs. Safe, non-toxic , low-cost and effective, vitamin C seems poised to take its place as a promising cancer treatment of the twenty-first century.
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