Intravenous Vitamin C for Cancer

Intravenous vitamin C is an effective and well-established cancer therapy that has demonstrated effectiveness in assisting to treat cancer for decades, despite being dismissed by some medical experts.  As indicated by many studies, this therapy prolongs survival, improves quality of life, and reduces adverse effects of conventional cancer treatment (Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2004; 3:294-300).

Of the studies looking at the anti-cancer effects of intravenous vitamin C, the most well-known is a paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and includes contributions by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Cancer Research, and McGill University. The study examined cases of advanced terminal cancer and found that high-dose intravenous vitamin C resulted in unexpectedly long term remission rates.  In one case of B-cell lymphoma, a cancer that usually results in a very short life expectancy, researchers found that the patient was in normal health 10 years after the diagnosis. Another case showed that a patient with advance kidney cancer that had spread throughout her body, was cancer-free at a one year follow-up assessment.  Using conventional treatment options, such results only occur in 1% of cases (CMAJ. 2006;174:937-42). These findings support the use of high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy in cancer treatment.

How does vitamin work to fight cancer? Part of the answer to this question involves the amounts of the vitamin used.  At a low dose (achieved orally through pills), vitamin C is a potent antioxidant with important functions in the immune system and wound healing. However, at a large dose (achieved only intravenously), vitamin C can induce oxidative damage to cells, which means it cause cancer cells to undergo spontaneous death. To give this some perspective, high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy results in blood levels of 14,000 μM/l, whereas oral doses result in blood concentrations of 220 μM/l.  Research looking at the effects on the actual cancer cells demonstrates that very high concentrations of vitamin C (intravenous doses) are selectively toxic to cancer cells, but do not harm normal cells (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2005, 102:13604-9). This selective toxicity occurs because the intravenous vitamin C, in high doses, increases levels of hydrogen peroxide (a chemical that destroys cancer cells).  Cancer cells are very vulnerable to this chemical whereas normal cells are not (Histol Histopathol, 1997, 12:525-35). This means cancer cells are destroyed while healthy cells and tissues remain unharmed.

Some traditional oncologists postulate that vitamin C decreases the effectiveness of chemotherapy.  Their argument is that chemotherapy works because it is an oxidative process that kills cancer cells, and that anti-oxidants (nutrients such as vitamin C) would interfere with the treatment. This is not the case.  There has been no clinical evidence that shows patients given vitamin C and chemotherapy together fare worse than those not receiving the vitamin.  In fact the complete opposite is true as demonstrated by all clinical studies.  A paper that reviewed 71 scientific studies found that antioxidants actually enhance the effects of chemotherapeutic agents (J. of Oncol. 1999; 31:1201-1078).

Medical practitioners will be compelled to re-examine the evidence as the use of intravenous vitamin C becomes more commonplace. Until then, seek out your options with a health care practitioner knowledgeable in complementary cancer treatments with scientific research and clinical trials to verify its effectiveness.