Vitamin C Injections Slow Tumor Growth in Mice
News Aug 07, 2008
High-dose injections of vitamin C, also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid, reduced tumor weight and growth rate by about 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report in the August 5, 2008, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers traced ascorbate's anti-cancer effect to the formation of hydrogen peroxide in the extracellular fluid surrounding the tumors. Normal cells were unaffected.
Vitamin C plays a critical role in health, and a prolonged deficiency leads to scurvy and eventually to death. Some proteins known as enzymes, which have vital biochemical functions, require the vitamin to work properly. Vitamin C may also act as an antioxidant, protecting cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
The NIH researchers, however, tested the idea that ascorbate, when injected at high doses, may have prooxidant instead of antioxidant activity. Prooxidants would generate free radicals and the formation of hydrogen peroxide, which, the scientists hypothesized, might kill tumor cells.
In their laboratory experiments on 43 cancer and 5 normal cell lines, the researchers discovered that high concentrations of ascorbate had anticancer effects in 75 percent of cancer cell lines tested, while sparing normal cells. In their paper, the researchers also showed that these high ascorbate concentrations could be achieved in people.
The team then tested ascorbate injections in immune-deficient mice with rapidly spreading ovarian, pancreatic, and glioblastoma (brain) tumors. The ascorbate injections reduced tumor growth and weight by 41 to 53 percent. In 30 percent of glioblastoma controls, the cancer had spread to other organs, but the ascorbate-treated animals had no signs of disseminated cancer. "These pre-clinical data provide the first firm basis for advancing pharmacologic ascorbate in cancer treatment in humans," the researchers conclude.
Interest in vitamin C as a potential cancer therapy peaked about 30 years ago when case series data showed a possible benefit. In 1979 and 1985, however, other researchers reported no benefit for cancer patients taking high oral doses of vitamin C in two double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials.