Vitamin C in high doses might kill cancer cells

Cold Case

Thirty years ago Gerald Ford was President, moviegoers lined up to see Jaws, E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime was a bestseller, and cancer researchers thought they might be on to something big. Their ambitious theory: Vitamin C in high doses might kill cancer cells.

The problem was absorption. When C is taken orally, the intestines can absorb only so much. When the saturation point is reached, further mega-doses are meaningless. Absorption isn’t an issue when C is administered intravenously, but apparently the technology wasn’t developed enough in the 1970s to assess the effects of intravenous C on cancer cells.

Three decades later, scientists at the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) took up the cold case and made a startling discovery.

Sorting out good from bad

Could there actually come a time when intravenous chemotherapy is supplemented with, or in some cases replaced by intravenous vitamin C?

By mainstream medicine standards we’re a long way from such a day, but we’re a little bit closer thanks to NIDDK researchers who published a new vitamin C study earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While studying recommended daily intake levels of vitamin C, the NIDDK team realized that intravenous administration of C solved the absorption problem of oral intake. Lead researcher, Mark Levine, M.D., told HealthDay News that 10 grams of intravenous C prompts blood levels of the vitamin that are more than 25 times higher than that achieved with oral C.

This is where researchers reopened the cold case that was discontinued in the 70s.

When 10 types of cancer cells and four types of normal cells were exposed to a vitamin C dose of less than four millimoles (easily obtainable intravenously), in five of the cancer cell types, about half of the cells were either killed or apoptosis (cell “suicide”) occurred. Also, C exposure nearly completely halted the growth of surviving cells.

All of this would be for nothing, of course, if any damage was done to the normal cells tested, but these cells were completely unaffected.

Levine and his NIDDK team can’t explain what mechanisms produced these results, but theorized that the high concentration of C prompted the formation of hydrogen peroxide (HP), which is known to kill cells. In this case the healthy cells may have repaired any HP damage, while the cancer cells may have been more vulnerable.

C’s century?

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the NIDDK researchers concluded: “These findings give plausibility to IV ascorbic acid in cancer treatment, and have unexpected implications for treatment of infections where hydrogen peroxide may be beneficial.”

“Plausibility” means we still have a long way to go down the research path before anyone can unconditionally state that high doses of intravenous vitamin C can fight cancer. But the last part of that quote indicates a potential for high doses of intravenous C as a multi-purpose treatment.

In the e-Alert “Be AfraidBe Very Afraid – Part II” (10/17/02), HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., had this to say about the pioneering efforts of Fredrick R. Klenner, M.D., who did intravenous C research many decades ag

“Fred Klenner, M.D., was using intravenous ascorbic acid (vitamin C) against viruses, serious bacteria and even toxins such as snakebites as early as the 1930s. His patient records showed amazing successes, witnessed by hospital personnel, while most outsiders (who refused to review his data) labeled him a quack. Those who did, such as Drs. Jungeblut and Zwerner, Otani, Ormerod, and others, all came away impressed that his work was both accurate and therapeutic. He treated diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, and in the middle of a polio epidemic in North Carolina he was considered to have ‘cured’ 60 out of 60 cases of infantile polio.”

Could C by IV turn out to be the “wonder drug” of the 21st Century? You can be sure I’ll report to you on any further studies.

“Pharmacologic Ascorbic Acid Concentrations Selectively Kill Cancer Cells: Action as a Pro-Drug to Deliver Hydrogen Peroxide to Tissues” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Published online before print 9/12/05,
“High Doses of IV Vitamin C Fight Cancer” Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay News, 9/12/05,
“Vitamin C Jab Could Combat Cancer” Daily Mail, 9/12/05,