Stopping mesothelioma may never be a matter as simple as eating a few extra oranges each day. Yet fresh research from the University of Kansas is renewing interest in vitamin C as a potential killer of cancer cells.
Vitamin C — the antioxidant compound contained in citrus fruits and some vegetables — has long been believed by some to possess cancer-fighting properties. Critics contend it does not and more than a few have even consigned it to the realm of medical quackery.
However, according to one study, vitamin C altered cancer DNA in a way that caused malignant cells in lab mice to die without harming healthy cells. The findings were published in the February 2014 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Authors of the study cautioned that further and deeper investigation must be conducted to develop an accurate understanding of vitamin C’s potential usefulness as a cancer treatment.
Wreaked Havoc on Cancer Cells
The research team noted that vitamin C not only threw a monkey wrench into the machinery of the cancer’s DNA, it also “depleted cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) [and] activated the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM)/adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway.”
In short, the vitamin C wreaked havoc upon the cancer cells. The researchers were very encouraged by this development.
The team, which included a member from the National Institutes of Health, wrote: “In the interstitial fluid surrounding tumor cells, millimolar concentrations of ascorbate [vitamin C] exert local pro-oxidant effects by mediating hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) formation, which kills cancer cells.”
Another encouraging sign: vitamin C improved the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs administered to the test mice. It made the rodents more comfortable while undergoing chemotherapy.
Vitamin C Attacked by Critics
Vitamin C as a cancer therapy has long drawn the ire of critics.
Nearly 15 years ago, a specialist from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center told an American Cancer Society audience that he believed vitamin C actually harms cancer patients. He said it builds up inside cancer cells and — rather than causing them to die — instead provides them the nutrition necessary to grow bigger and faster.
The American Cancer Society reports that many cancer doctors today believe that high doses of vitamin C and other antioxidents prevent radiation and chemotherapy treatments from working as well as they could.
In fairness, critics of vitamin C therapy typically base their views on the reported results of taking vitamin C in over-the-counter dietary supplement form. This is usually a swallowed pill or tablet.
By contrast, the vitamin C given to the lab mice in the Science Translational Medicine study is not an over-the-counter product and is delivered by infusion.
Taking More Vitamin C
Vitamin C’s potential as a cancer therapy received much attention in the early 1970s. Scientist Linus Pauling — who won the Nobel Prize twice — uncovered evidence suggesting that intake of more than 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily could ward off disease by boosting immune-system performance.
The American Cancer Society indicates that most people can tolerate up to 2,000 mg of vitamin C per day.
Regardless of where you stand on the question of vitamin C’s value as a cancer therapy, the American Cancer Society recommends that you talk to your doctor before taking this or any vitamin supplement.