Cancer treatments are known to be tough on patients, however, they may be that patient’s only shot at survival. After investigating the matter, researchers are now saying there may be a way to make those treatments work even better. In a recent study, scientist concluded that high doses of vitamin C during treatment can deteriorate cancer cells and make them more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. The study was designed to determine if vitamin C in high doses was safe; it tested 11 people with an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma were treated with vitamin C injections three times a week for almost two months. This dosage was gradually increased as the patients underwent radiation therapy to ensure that their vitamin C intake would remain in the blood. The people in the trial did not report any additional side effect or adverse symptoms associated with the vitamin, just those typically associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The study was not structured to look at how effective the vitamin C was, but the researchers noticed that half the people in the studied lived to the two-year mark, despite the average one-year survival rate of the disease.
In a separate study conducted to test the vitamin’s usefulness, researchers also tested the high-dose vitamin C in a group of 14 people with non-small cell lung cancer. 93 percent of the people receiving vitamin C injections are responding to chemotherapy and radiation, compared to the 40 percent of people who usually do. This study also found that more than 30 percent of people getting the vitamin C showed signs of their tumors shrinking. Usually, this percentage is much smaller; only 15 percent to 19 percent of patients receiving chemo and radiation experienced their tumors shrinking.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that combats the free radicals formed by sunlight, pollutants, and smoking. Radiation oncology researchers believe that the vitamin can promote oxidative damage, but only in cancer cells. Tumors have higher levels of oxidative stress, which produces free radicals. This releases unstable forms of iron, which reacts with vitamin C and causes further damage to the cancer cell. The unstable iron particles are unique to cancer cells, making them ideal targets for the vitamin C, which then reacts with them to cause more damage and destroy the cell. The goal of the study is to find out if pairing large doses of vitamin C with chemotherapy and radiation can destroy cancer cells. It is important to note that the doses used comes in orders of magnitude greater than the dose in a multivitamin of massive amount of orange juice, about 800 to 1,000-fold.
Using vitamin C in cancer treatment was last advocated by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. Although he had the right idea, he wasn’t able to use high enough dosages of the vitamin to see an effect. More studies shall be conducted with other cancers to see if the same weakness is common to other types of tumors. Finding new ways to make existing cancer treatments work more effectively is becoming more popular. For example, recent breast cancer studies found that taking medications at night might make them more powerful against the tumor, because some agents that are active during wakefulness may inhibit the work of certain drugs.