Findings from a new study offer further evidence of the cancer-fighting properties of vitamin C. This time, research shows the powerful antioxidant may be effective in combating a class of cancerous tumors – including colorectal cancer cells – that can be particularly difficult to treat by conventional means.
Findings of the study, which showed the vitamin was effective in curbing cancer-causing mutations in mice, were published recently in the journal Science. Vitamin C is already known for its effectiveness in detoxifying the body and boosting the immune system. Notably championed by globally respected scientist Dr. Linus Pauling and other advocates as a treatment for cancer and heart disease, these latest findings on vitamin C may open the door for its use as treatment for some of the most challenging cancers.
A safe way to attack ‘difficult-to-treat’ cancer tumors
It may sound incredible that a deadly disease like cancer could be treated by something as simple (and safe) as vitamin C. For decades, naysayers denied what Nobel Prize-winning chemist Pauling and others outside the conventional medical establishment had discovered: Vitamin C can be effective against many of the serious illnesses that have plagued mankind – including cancer.
The most recently published study using cell culture and mice shows that vitamin C was effective at killing tumor cells that carry a common cancer-causing mutation. The hope is that the findings may eventually lead to the ability to use vitamin C to create a variety of targeted treatments against deadly cancers.
In the study, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Weill Cornell Medicine, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Tufts Medical Center teamed up to investigate the effect of high doses of vitamin C on colorectal tumor formation. Using roughly the equivalent of the amount of vitamin C found in 300 oranges, the scientists were able to document impaired growth of KRAS-mutant and BRAF-mutant colorectal tumors in cultured cells as well as in mice.
Vitamin C acts as Trojan horse in cancer cells
Typically, the health benefits of vitamin C are associated in large part with its role as an effective antioxidant, helping to prevent or at least delay certain types of damage to cells. However, this latest study shows an entirely different role regarding its effect on certain forms of colorectal cancer, with it actually inducing oxidation in cancer cells.
In oxygen-rich environments, like arteries, a portion of vitamin C is oxidized and transformed into a new compound known as dehydroascorbic acid or DHA. This new compound is able to act as a Trojan horse and pass through the cancer cell membrane, thanks to a protein glucose transmitter.
Once inside, the cancer cell’s natural antioxidants attempt to convert DHA back to ascorbic acid, but are unable to keep up and instead become depleted, with the cancer cell then dying of oxidative stress. Because certain colorectal cancer cells produce greater amounts of reactive oxygen than other cell types, they need more antioxidants to survive. This makes them more susceptible to the action of DHA than normal cells or even other types of cancer cells.
Can vitamin C help people with pancreatic cancer?
While the results of this latest study need to be evaluated via human clinical trial, researchers believe these preclinical findings hold much promise in development of a new treatment strategy for certain types of colorectal cancer. Further study may also later lead to similar treatments for other cancers as well, particularly those expressing high levels of the protein glucose transmitter, including renal cell carcinoma, bladder cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Continued research could also lead to development of biomarkers. These could aid physicians in determining a more precise mode of treatment and a better understanding of which cancer patients would most benefit from this type of vitamin C therapy.