Could Vitamin C Be a Potential Cancer Therapy?

Tiffany Lowery

New research on the health benefits of vitamin C—also known as ascorbate acid—seems to show it could help stop abnormal cell growth.

Scientific experiments featuring high-dose injections of vitamin C reduced the growth and size of tumors by a whopping 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian and pancreatic cancers!

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that high doses of the vitamin caused hydrogen peroxide to form in the extracellular fluid surrounding the tumors. According to an NIH statement, the scientists think the hydrogen peroxide might kill the tumor cells.

When you take vitamin C orally your body naturally limits the amount that can be absorbed. “When you eat foods containing more than 200 milligrams of vitamin C a day—for example, 2 oranges and a serving of broccoli—your body prevents blood levels of ascorbate from exceeding a narrow range,” said Mark Levine, M.D., the study’s lead author and chief of the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH.

The NIH scientists bypassed these normal controls by injecting the ascorbate into the veins or abdomen of rodents with aggressive brain, ovarian and pancreatic tumors. This delivered high doses of ascorbate—up to 4 grams per kilogram of body weight daily.

“At these high injected doses, we hoped to see drug-like activity that might be useful in cancer treatment,” Levine said.

The scientists experimented on 43 cancer and five normal cell lines. They discovered that high concentrations of ascorbate had anti-cancer effects in 75 percent of the cancer cell lines tested. None of the normal cells were affected by these tests. In their paper, the researchers also showed that these high ascorbate concentrations could be achieved in people.

The NIH statement said research into vitamin C as a potential cancer therapy peaked in the 1970s when case data showed a possible benefit. However, research findings in 1979 and 1985 reported no benefit for cancer patients taking high oral doses of vitamin C in two double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials.

The NIH researchers decided to revisit ascorbate as a cancer therapy. They hypothesized that only injected ascorbate could deliver the doses needed to combat tumors. Levine said new clinical trials of ascorbate as a cancer treatment are in the planning stages.