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Vitamin C and cancer.
What do we know?
No conjecture. No fear mongering. Just the scientific facts.
Cancer is a state that leaves the body deficient in vitamin C—a state of metabolic scurvy if you will. Many claim that the evidence on vitamin C is sparse, incomplete, inconclusive, or is ineffective or worse, detrimental to the conventional triad of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. An analysis of the large volume of literature present on vitamin C in the prevention, but more specifically the treatment of cancer, just does not support any of those conclusions. In fact, the evidence points to the overwhelming conclusion that vitamin C, particularly intravenous vitamin C, should be a part of every treatment plan in people with cancer and in individuals with other illness i.e. viral infections, bacterial infections… Here is what the science says about vitamin C and cancer.
Intravenous vitamin C is effective against a wide variety of cancer types including the following 1, 2, 3, 4
- Brain (glioblastoma) cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Pancreatic cancer
- Breast cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Thyroid cancer
- Renal Cell cancer
Vitamin C’s effects against cancer are not limited to just these cancer types; these are just the cancer types that very solid evidence exists to support vitamin C’s use. Vitamin C is effective in the treatment of any tumor type, listed above or not listed, that preferentially uses glucose via the altered aerobic glycolysis (Warburg effect 5)
The large volume of evidence-based study types that are available on vitamin C in the treatment of cancer includes:
- Case reports and case series
- In vitro studies
- In vivo studies
- Animal research
- Cohort trials
- Randomized controlled trials
- Systematic reviews
- Large Meta-analysis studies
- Phase I, II, and III human clinical trials
These study types are exhaustive and are the backbone of the scientific and medical communities—or at least they should be. These are the foundations upon which the medical community builds opinion. This doesn’t include just a few studies, but includes 100s and 100s of studies in the U.S. and from around the world. Research is research, whether it is done in the U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan… Study design and bias don’t show a country preference. Just as many biased studies come out of the U.S. as any other country.
What is the best way to take vitamin C for the treatment of cancer? This is not even open for debate—intravenous (IV). More so, the IV dose should be high-dose. The dose of 25-50 grams per IV simply will not suffice for the treatment of advanced cancer. With advanced, active cancer, the tumor burden is simply too great to be effected in any positive way via a trickle of vitamin C. Also, the oral dosing of vitamin C for cancer, including liposomal forms, will simply not work in the treatment of active cancer either. This argument falls flat on its face—the face of pharmacokinetics that is. This is not a new lesson either, but a lesson from history that has been forgotten. This lesson was learned many years ago with the different outcomes of the studies done by Ewan Cameron and Linus Pauling and what is called the Mayo studies. In 1976, Ewan Cameron and Linus Pauling (Linus Pauling is considered the father of vitamin C) published 6 their experience with high-dose (10 grams) IV vitamin C in 100 patients with “terminal” cancer. They found a significant 4.2 times prolongation (50 to 210 days) of survival with 10 days consecutive IV vitamin C followed by oral vitamin C compared to untreated individuals. They repeated their study 7 of terminal cancer patients in 1978 to find an improvement in survival above that of their previous study. They found an average increase of survival benefit of 300 days in the IV vitamin C group compared to those untreated. In this second study, 1 year survival was 22% in the IV vitamin C treated group compared to 0.4% in the untreated group. In contrast, there are what are called the Mayo studies. The first study of 150 patients by ET Creagan et al 8, at the Mayo Clinic, with advanced cancer repeated the study performed by Cameron and Pauling, but only used oral vitamin C 10 grams instead of any IV. Their results found no benefit in survival. The same flawed study with oral vitamin C 10 grams only without IV vitamin C with the same negative survival benefit was repeated in 1985 by Moertel CG et al 9.
Why the difference? Pharmacokinetics! This difference in the delivery methods of vitamin C by mouth versus intravenous administration provided different pharmacokinetics which led to different results. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Pharmacokinetics is defined as the study of the time movement of a drug through drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion. From a practical stand point, pharmacokinetics is how the delivery of a drug, a vitamin, a mineral…is effected from administration though elimination from the body. Oral vitamin C uptake is regulated but the SVCT1 receptor 10 in the gut lining. There are other receptors, SVCT1, GLUT1… receptors, but they are not involved with gut absorption of vitamin C…at least as far as we know currently. In the gut epithelial lining, SVCT receptors down-regulate receptor expression with higher encountered vitamin C levels. Thus, the more frequent the dose and the higher the dose of vitamin C, the lower the capacity to uptake vitamin C through the gut. In contrast, IV vitamin C bypasses this down regulation counter mechanism in the GI epithelial lining. By definition, IV vitamin C is 100% bioavailable.
Vitamin C has been shown to be widely effective in the treatment of specific processes involved in cancer initiation, cancer growth, and cancer spread to include 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
- Directly cell destructive (cytotoxic) to cancer cells
- Stops growth (proliferation) of cancer cells
- Reduces inflammation that propagates cancer
- Provides anti-oxidative support
- Provides pro-oxidative effects that kill cancer cells
- Stimulates the immune system to fight cancer
- Blocks lymphatic (lymphagenesis) recruitment to cancer that promotes systemic spread
- Blocks blood vessel (angiogenesis) recruitment to cancer that promotes systemic spread
- Blocks metastatic spread of cancer
- Changes genetic expression (epigenetics) that inhibits cancer
- Is anti-viral
- Preserves mitochondrial function
And that is just a small sampling of the evidence that is available that supports the use of IV vitamin C, particularly high-dose, in the treatment of cancer. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, call An Oasis of Healing today to learn about how you can begin your healing journey today.
Were you or a loved one recently diagnosed with cancer? We want to help! We are An integrative healing center that specializes in alternative cancer treatment utilizing intravenous treatments that target cancer and enhance the immune system. Get in touch today.
 Mata, Ana Maria Oliveira Ferreira da, Carvalho, Ricardo Melo de, Alencar, Marcus Vinícius Oliveira Barros de, Cavalcante, Ana Amélia de Carvalho Melo, & Silva, Benedito Borges da. (2016). Ascorbic acid in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira, 62(7), 680-686. https://doi.org/10.1590/1806-9282.62.07.680
2 Lv, H., Wang, C., Fang, T., Li, T., Lv, G., Han, Q., Yang, W., & Wang, H. (2018). Vitamin C preferentially kills cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma via SVCT-2. NPJ precision oncology, 2(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41698-017-0044-8
3 Su, X., Shen, Z., Yang, Q., Sui, F., Pu, J., Ma, J., Ma, S., Yao, D., Ji, M., Hou, P.. Vitamin C kills thyroid cancer cells through ROS-dependent inhibition of MAPK/ERK and PI3K/AKT pathways via distinct mechanisms. Theranostics 2019; 9(15):4461-4473. doi:10.7150/thno.35219. Available from http://www.thno.org/v09p4461.htm
4 Drisko, J. A., Serrano, O. K., Spruce, L. R., Chen, Q., & Levine, M. (2018). Treatment of pancreatic cancer with intravenous vitamin C: a case report. Anti-cancer drugs, 29(4), 373–379. https://doi.org/10.1097/CAD.0000000000000603
5 Vander Heiden, M. G., Cantley, L. C., & Thompson, C. B. (2009). Understanding the Warburg effect: the metabolic requirements of cell proliferation. Science (New York, N.Y.), 324(5930), 1029–1033. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1160809
6 Cameron E, Pauling L. Supplemental Ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. (1976). Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. 73(10):3685-3689.
7 Cameron, E., & Pauling, L. (1978). Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: reevaluation of prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 75(9), 4538–4542. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.75.9.4538
8 Creagan ET et al. Failure of High-Dose vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) Therapy to Benefit Patients with Advanced Cancer—A controlled trial. (1979). N Engl J Med; 301:687-690.DOI:10.1056/NEJM197909273011303
9 Moertel CG et al. High-dose vitamin C versus placebo in the treatment of patients with advanced cancer who have had no prior chemotherapy. (1985). N Engl J Med; 312:137-141.
10 Mandl, J., Szarka, A., & Bánhegyi, G. (2009). Vitamin C: update on physiology and pharmacology. British journal of pharmacology, 157(7), 1097–1110. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00282.x
11 Manstrangelo, D., Pelosi, E., Castelli, G., Lo-Coco, F., Testa, U., Mechanisms of anti-cancer effects of ascorbate: Cytotoxic activity and epigenetic modulation. (2018). Blood Cells Mol Dis. Mar;69:57-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bcmd.2017.09.005. Epub
12 Abel Ang, Juliet M. Pullar, Margaret J. Currie, Margreet C.M. Vissers. Vitamin C and immune cell function in inflammation and cancer. (2018). Biochem Soc Trans;46(5):1147–1159. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BST20180169
13 Zeng, L. H., Wang, Q. M., Feng, L. Y., Ke, Y. D., Xu, Q. Z., Wei, A. Y., Zhang, C., & Ying, R. B. (2019). High-dose vitamin C suppresses the invasion and metastasis of breast cancer cells via inhibiting epithelial-mesenchymal transition. OncoTargets and therapy, 12, 7405–7413. https://doi.org/10.2147/OTT.S222702
14 Vissers, M., & Das, A. B. (2018). Potential Mechanisms of Action for Vitamin C in Cancer: Reviewing the Evidence. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 809. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00809
15 Bakalova, R., Zhelev, Z., Miller, T., Aoki, I., and Higashi, T. (2020). Vitamin C versus Cancer: Ascorbic Acid Radical and Impairment of Mitochondrial Respiration? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/1504048
16 Pawlowska,E., Szczepanska, J., and Blasiak, J. (2019). Pro- and Antioxidant Effects of Vitamin C in Cancer in correspondence to Its Dietary and Pharmacological Concentrations. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/7286737
Dr. Nathan Goodyear is dedicated to disease prevention, disease resolution, and the Wellness Lifestyle through a solution-based, Integrative Medicine approach founded in science. Dr. Goodyear received his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana Tech University and his Doctor of Medicine from LSU Health Sciences Center.
He is Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and served as the Chief Resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Goodyear has practiced Integrative Medicine since 2006. Dr. Goodyear is a Fellow in Functional and Regenerative Medicine and served on the board of the American Functional Medicine Association. Dr. Goodyear is a published author, Man Boob Nation–an Integrative medicine approach to low Testosterone published in 2014, and Total Testosterone Transformation published in 2017