Radiation and chemotherapy seek to treat and eliminate cancer cells, and scientists think they may have found a way to help make the procedures even more effective at eliminating toxic cells.
A team from the University of Iowa examined the impact high doses of vitamin C have on patients undergoing cancer treatment. The 11 people with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, received vitamin C three times a week via vein injection. People with the disease are usually given about one year to live, but all 11 are still living two years later.
“The vitamin C stresses cancer cells that are already stressed,” study author Dr. Bryan Allen told Time. “All we’re doing is tipping it over the edge so it makes radiation and chemo more effective. Normal cells don’t have the same stress present, so vitamin C doesn’t have the same effect in causing toxicity.”
The researchers are also looking at the impact of vitamin C in a different study of 14 lung cancer patients. Among that group, 93 percent of people getting infusions of the vitamin are responding to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Without vitamin C, the average response rate is 40 percent. Tumors shrunk in 30 percent of the people who are receiving the vitamin, compared to the usual 15 to 19 percent.
Allen said that the amount of vitamin C administered in the study that seems to impact cancer treatment can’t be obtained by taking a supplement or consuming foods high in the vitamin, like orange juice.
“It’s orders of magnitude greater than the dose in a multivitamin, about 800 to 1,000 fold,” Allen said.
Not all cancer patients receive chemotherapy or radiation, and the treatments’ effectiveness depends upon the type and severity of the cancer.