High Dose Intravenous Vitamin C Fights Cancer

September 28, 2005

This was the New York Times’ headline two weeks ago.

The United States National Institute of Health (NIH) has publicized a laboratory study (1) which shows that when cancer cells are exposed to high doses of vitamin C, which can only be achieved though intravenous injection, the cancer cells die without the normal cells being effected.

The NIH pronounced,”These findings give plausibility to i.v. ascorbic acid in cancer treatment.” They rightly add that much separates laboratory studies from human treatment.

Meanwhile this study is an affirmation of similar results of many earlier studies. In 2004 researchers indicated that “the role of vitamin C in cancer treatment should be re-examined” because intravenous doses of vitamin C can give concentrations which have anti-tumour effects (2)

In 1993 a study showed that vitamin C is deadly or cytotoxic to fast growing malignant cells while being non-toxic to non-malignant cells. Supplementary studies showed that ascorbate’s effects on cell growth are due to its direct lethal effect on cancer cells contrary to a cytostatic effect (3).

Earlier it had been proven that vitamin C has a growth inhibiting effect on cancer cells, but only in large concentrations. The addition of the antioxidant catalase to the growth media completely suppressed this growth inhibiting effect.

The authors of this study believed that this indicates that an overproduction of hydrogen peroxide in involved in the mechanisms responsible for vitamin C’s inhibitory effect of tumour cell growth (4).

The authors of the more recent study lean towards this hypothesis from 1989, which is that high dose vitamin C’s toxic effect on cancer cells is due to subsequent high concentrations of peroxide. Normal cells have an intact antioxidant defence in the form of catalase. This is lacking in cancer cells. This is why vitamin C harms cancer cells and not normal cells, which is exactly the finding of the 2005 study.

Vitamin C’s potential in cancer treatment was also shown in two large studies from 1994, where large doses of ascorbic acid had strong cytotoxic (cell poisonous) effects on a wide range of cancer cell types grown in test tubes (5).

The authors of the second 1994 study also argue that ascorbic acids acts as a pro-oxidant in cancer cells, and they recommend the use of ascorbic acid in the treatment of neuroblastoma (6).

So far so good; but remember that researchers from the NIH mention that there is much separating laboratory studies and the treatment of people.

Vitamin C is meanwhile so non-toxic that some have already undertaken large studies on people.

As early as 1936, a young Danish doctor published an article in the Danish medical weekly “Ugeskrift for Læger” outlining a study where vitamin C was used in the treatment of two leukaemia patients where both showed improvement. This young doctor, named Preben Plum later became a renowned professor or paediatrics.

40 years later a study including 1,100 patients suffering from terminal cancer showed that those who were treated with i.v. vitamin C lived considerably longer than those who were not treated (7).

Ten years ago Riordan et. al. showed that ascorbic acid levels in the plasma can reach levels toxic to tumour cells if given intravenously. The authors believe that ascorbic acid’s cytotoxic properties should qualify it to be considered as a chemotherapeutic drug.

These few examples of a large amount of vitamin C studies fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

This has awakened considerable interest in the media and could strengthen the scientific foundation of clinics where i.v. vitamin C treatment for cancer is already used.

By: Vitality Council

1. Chen et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 20. Sept. 2005;102:13604-9.
2. Annals of Internal Medicine 2004;140: 533-37.
3. P.Y. Leung, et al. Cytotoxic Effect of Ascorbate and its Derivatives on Cultured Malignant and Nonmalignant Cell Lines, Anticancer Research, 13(2), March-April 1993, p. 475-480.
4. V. Noto, et al., Effects of Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C) and 2-methyl-1,4-Naphthoquinone Treatment on Human Tumor Cell Growth in Vitro. I. Synergism of Combined Vitamin C and K3 Action, Cancer, 63(5), March 2, 1989, p. 901-906.
5. M. A. Medina, et al. Ascorbic Acid is Cytotoxic for Pediatric Tumor Cells Cultured in Vitro, Biochem Mol Biol Int, 34(5), November 1994, p. 871-874.
6. S.L. Baader, et al., Uptake and Cytotoxicity of Ascorbic Acid and Dehydroascorbic Acid in Neuroblastoma (SK-N-SH) and Neuroectodermal (SK-N-LO) Cells, Anticancer, 14(1A), January-February 1994 p. 221-227.
7. Cameroun, Proc Natl Acad Sci 1976;73:3685-9.
8. N.H. Riordan, et. al. Intravenous Ascorbate as a Tumor Cytotoxic Chemotherapeutic Agent, Medical Hypotheses, 44(3), March 1995, p. 207-213.