A new study shows that vitamin C might just function as powerful anti-cancer medicine. Researchers at the University of Salford in the U.K. found that using vitamin C inhibited the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory. Vitamin C also showed a potency that was 10 times higher than the experimental drug 2-DG in the process, researchers said. The findings were published in the journal Oncotarget.
Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease is the second most common cause of death and disease around the world, accounting for nearly nine million deaths in 2015 alone. Data shows that new cases of cancer are expected to surge by around 70 percent in the next two decades.
The National Cancer Institute in the U.S. projects that nearly 40 percent of American men and women will develop the disease at one point in their lives. Various cancer therapies — such as surgery, radiation therapy and systemic treatments — are currently available, but may not always show efficacy. Some of the treatments are deemed to be toxic and may result in a host of adverse side effects.
More aggressive forms of cancer may not always respond to treatments, and cancer stem-like cells were believed to be the cause of disease recurrence and metastasis. According to an American Association of Cancer Research panel, a CSC is “a cell within a tumor that possesses the capacity to self-renew and to cause the heterogeneous lineages of cancer cells that comprise the tumor.”
Vitamin C starves cancer stem-like cells in recent study
According to researchers, vitamin C starves cancer stem cells by blocking a process called glycolysis. The process is responsible for glucose metabolism, and inhibiting it prevents the mitochondria from gaining essential energy for survival. Using vitamin C as an add-on treatment to chemotherapy may show potential in stemming tumor recurrence and further progression of cancer.
Researcher Dr. Gloria Bonuccelli said the findings suggest that vitamin C is a promising candidate for cancer treatment. “We have been looking at how to target cancer stem cells with a range of natural substances including silibinin (milk thistle) and CAPE, a honey-bee derivative, but by far the most exciting are the results with vitamin C. Vitamin C is cheap, natural, nontoxic and readily available so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step,” said study author Dr Michael Lisanti.
However, Cancer Research UK official Anna Perman cautioned that the results are at its preliminary stages.
“The important thing for cancer patients to remember is that this study is looking at the action of vitamin C in the laboratory, not the effect of eating foods or supplements that contain vitamin C. This should not prompt anyone receiving treatment for cancer to change their diet or treatment plan,” Perman said.
The study backs the findings of a 1971 research by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling. Pauling was a pioneer in testing vitamin C efficacy against cancer. In his study, Pauling examined 1,100 terminally ill cancer patients. One hundred patients were given 10 grams of vitamin C daily, while the remaining cohort was used as the control group.
During a follow-up in 1978, the team found that all patients in the control group died of cancer, while 13 of those who took daily doses of vitamin C survived. In addition, 12 of these patients exhibited no further signs of the disease.
Many studies that followed concludes that high vitamin C doses, at more than 5,000 mg per day, provide optimal protection against cancer.