Vitamin C and cancer stem cells the evidence is telling.
What do cancer stem cells (CSCs) have to do with vitamin C? No opinion stated here just look to the evidence. A recent study published in the journal OncoTarget helps to identify the connection between vitamin C and cancer stem cells.
This is the seventh article of a seven-part series by Nathan Goodyear, MD at An Oasis of Healing detailing the evidence and scientific studies of intravenous high dose vitamin C and the effect it has on cancer.
In this study, vitamin C was found to induce oxidative stress and inhibit glycolysis (cell energy production using glucose) via the inhibition of GAPDH in cancer cells. This may not sound like anything new or exciting, as I highlighted this mechanism in a previous blog post, but cancer, metabolically speaking, has backed itself into a metabolic corner because of its metabolic inflexibility.
Most view cancer as metabolically advantaged over healthy cells, but the exact opposite is true. Healthy cells retain the metabolic flexibility to switch from glucose to protein, or even better fats, as the primary source of energy production as dictated by the environment.
This metabolic flexibility is found in the use of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway (the Kreb’s cycle and the electron transport chain). Cancer cells without stem activity lack this metabolic flexibility, thus limiting a cancer cells ability to adapt to changing nutrient sources.
This metabolic flexibility gives healthy cells the survival advantage over cancer cells if targeted therapy is employed to target non-stem cancer cell’s inflexibility and its sole reliance on glucose as its primary source of energy production. In this study, vitamin C (at doses that can only be obtained through IV delivery) was found to kill CSCs.
Vitamin C was compared to the experimental drug 2-DG and was found to be 10x more potent than the experimental drug (2-DG) in killing CSCs. Remember that CSCs are the ultimate backup copy to provide regrowth of the cancer cells if needed.
Kill the back-up, you forever kill the potential for recurrence. Other inhibitors of the CSC energy pathways found in this study were also Silibinin, an active component of milk thistle, and caffeine acid phenyl ester (CAPE) which comes from honeybee propolis.
Want more evidence of the impact of Vitamin C and Cancer Stem Cells?
A more recent study published in the journal Precision Oncology found that vitamin C kills CSCs in the very aggressive Hepatocellular (liver) cancer. The reason? Cancer Stem Cells more readily absorbed vitamin C because of its high uptake of vitamin C compared to normal cells.
This high uptake of vitamin C occurred due to the high expression of SVTC2 receptors on the CSCs compared to healthy cells or even non-stem cancer cells in general. It is one thing to have high plasma vitamin C levels in the presence of high SVTC2 receptors, but starve the CSC’s of its primary energy source, glucose, and the perfect high demand situation is created.
Couple this high demand with the high presence of vitamin C in the plasma, which looks just like glucose, and the setup is in place for the perfect stealth delivery of vitamin C. It is the perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing, but this time, in a good way.
A third study, published in the journal OncoTarget in 2017, found that IV vitamin C was able to kill CSCs in those cancers that were found to be resistance to the antibiotic doxycycline. This well-known and commonly prescribed antibiotic has been shown to be an effective therapy against CSCs in breast, ovarian, prostate, lung, pancreatic, melanoma, and glioblastoma cancers.
Interestingly, doxycycline increases the sensitivity of CSCs to radiation and chemotherapy. Some cancers, however, can escape and become resistant to these anti-cancer effects of doxycycline. The use of IV vitamin C in these doxycycline resistant cancers has been shown to be highly effective in killing CSCs.
High Dose Vitamin C Dosage For Cancer Stem Cells
These studies collectively conclude that Vitamin C can be used to target cancer cells in the primary tumor, cancer cells in metastasis and the ultimate back-up—Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs). In addition, vitamin C also targets the Cancer Stem Cell’s energy pathways in the mitochondria as glycolytic inhibitors. The authors of the study published in the journal OncoTarget stated:
“Vitamin C may prove to be [a] promising agent for new clinical trials, aimed at testing its ability to reduce CSC activity in cancer patients, as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumor recurrence, further disease progression, and metastasis.”
I agree with the entirety of the statement, except for “may prove”. How much evidence is needed? How much time is required? Vitamin C has been studied for its anti-cancer properties since its first proposed benefit in 1954! “Time reveals all truth”. Evidence and time have proven the truth of benefit of vitamin C in the treatment of cancer.
Because of the presence of Cancer Stem Cells, the defeat of the primary cancer tumor is just the beginning of the battle against cancer. The battle must continue with lifestyle interventions to attack CSCs in the short-term and long-term to target a life-long, disease-free survival instead of just 5 years of disease-free survival.
Disease-free survival is a conventional medicine term defined as 5 years without evidence of disease. What about 5 years and 1 day? What then? A plan of attack against cancer that includes CSCs will redefine disease-free survival.
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