Many people swear by the use of Vitamin C supplements to prevent and cure colds and other common illnesses. Given its health applications, it might come as little surprise that the medical community would explore Vitamin C’s possible role in the fight against cancer.
Researchers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are studying the effects of large amounts of Vitamin C used in conjunction with other cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Preclinical testing began in 2008 when Vitamin C was used successfully to slow the growth of tumors in mice.
Phase one of the study is currently investigating whether high doses of Vitamin C administered intravenously are safe for humans. So far the treatment has been tolerated by pancreatic cancer patients, and researchers are awaiting the results on patients with brain and lung cancer.
The study has not yet progressed to the point of testing Vitamin C as a method of killing tumors. However, Joseph Cullen, a professor of surgery at UI, said that the preclinical testing with mice showed that Vitamin C seemed to create hydrogen peroxide that attacked and killed cancer cells without affecting healthy ones.
After scientists in the late 1970s had promising results with testing Vitamin C as a cancer treatment, Mayo Clinic performed a study in the 1980s that contradicted the earlier one. Cullen says that the Mayo Clinic focused on oral ingestion of Vitamin C, while UI’s tests are using intravenous dosage which allows for higher, more effective levels.
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Conventional cancer treatments, while capable of saving people’s lives, can also zap the human body of crucial vitamins and minerals. When patients go through chemotherapy and radiation, for example, they may feel lethargic, have brittle hair and nails, and find that they cannot fight off colds and infections very well.
Rather than take chances on their bodies being able to resist viruses and bacteria or submit to feeling tired and physically drained until their treatments are done, most may be able to reclaim their energy and immune support by taking supplements in conjunction with alternative or conventional cancer treatments.
Before a patient takes any vitamins or supplements, they should consult their doctors to make sure that any product that they take will not interfere with their treatment. However, studies have noted that antioxidants, particularly those that contain Vitamins A, C, and E are effective in fighting free radicals in the body and repairing some of the damage that these free radicals have inflicted on a person’s DNA.
Likewise, chemotherapy and radiation are well known to deplete a person’s iron level and leave that individual feeling lethargic and sick. People whose blood iron levels are found to be very low during cancer treatment may be advised to take an iron supplement or a multi-vitamin that contains 100 percent of the daily recommended dose of iron. They should take their iron supplement with fruit juice, as the Vitamin C in juice will bind with the iron in the supplement and help transmit it throughout one’s body better.
People who go through cancer treatments look forward to recovering from their illness. When they feel drained of energy, have low blood iron, or have other signs of nutritional deficiencies like brittle hair and nails, they may recoup some of their former physical characteristics by taking a supplement.
Nearly half a century after Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling suggested that large doses of vitamin C (ascorbate) could be effective in preventing and treating cancer, a new study indicates that vitamin C may indeed be a valuable alternative cancer treatment. In a study recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that intravenous administration of high doses of vitamin C increased the cancer-killing effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs in mice and significantly decreased chemotherapy’s toxic side effects in people.
The recent research would seem to vindicate Pauling’s claims about vitamin C which were largely discredited by practitioners of Western medicine in the 1970s when they were unable to document Pauling’s claims in clinical trials.
“There’s been a bias since the late 1970s that vitamin C cancer treatment is worthless and a waste of time. We’re overcoming that old bias,” study co-author Dr. Jeanne Drisko, director of integrative medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told the Los Angeles Times.
The difference in results between previous studies and the latest research may lay in the method of delivering vitamin C. In studies conducted in the 1970s patients took vitamin C orally in pill form. University of Kansas researchers administered the vitamin intravenously.
“When you swallow a pill or eat an orange, vitamin C is absorbed at a certain rate by the gut and excreted very quickly by the kidneys, Drisko explained. “But when you give it intravenously, you override that. Plasma levels can get very high.”