Intravenous vitamin C is one of the most common and effective natural cancer treatments. Vitamin C has many roles in the body – it increases collagen production, is important for immune functioning, plays a role in cholesterol metabolism and aids neurotransmitter synthesis. The focus of the following information is the role of vitamin C in complementary cancer care.
Intravenous vitamin C literally involves a high dose of vitamin C being delivered via a catheter directly into a vein. It is a very popular treatment by integrative practitioners as it has many positive effects on quality of life, and has evidence that it is toxic to tumour cells as well. Intravenous vitamin C is not a novel or fringe treatment – it is used all over the world, from Japan, to Europe and North America.
Vitamin C is mostly recognized as an antioxidant. However, when vitamin C is delivered to tissues at high doses intravenously, it has been consistently shown in the research to act as a pro-oxidant by increasing cellular levels of hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic to neoplastic cells, and may either arrest growth or cause the cells to die.
Studies from laboratory animal studies using a variety of cancer types (prostate, colon, pancreatic, liver leukaemia) show that intravenous vitamin C reduces tumour growth, and that that reduction is stronger at higher concentrations of vitamin C.
Intravenous vitamin C has also been shown to inhibit the process of angiogenesis, which is the process of new blood vessel formation that helps to feed tumours. Angiogenesis is considered to be critical for tumour growth. The images below are from Mikirova et al. (2012) showing that small blood vessel growth is inhibited by vitamin C.
A recent study showed that intravenous vitamin C lowers inflammation in the body of cancer patients. Importantly, it is well established that high levels of inflammation worsen patient prognosis. Therefore, it can be implied that intravenous vitamin C may enhance survival, although large-scale human trials are greatly needed.
Case Studies & Clinical Trials
CASE STUDY OF LIVER CANCER
A recent case study reported on a 74 year old woman who had recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) with multiple metastases to the lung. She was treated solely with intravenous vitamin C, twice weekly for 10 months, at which time the lung metastases had completely regressed.(1)
RADIATION & VITAMIN C
A retrospective study of 39 patients with various cancers (colon, prostate, endometrial, lung, laryngeal and breast cancers) who were receiving palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases were studied. Fifteen patients received 2.5 grams of intravenous vitamin C whenever their pain increased, 15 patients received chemotherapy, and 9 patients served as controls. The vitamin C group showed greater reductions in pain compared to the chemotherapy and control group. Most impressive, median survival time in the control and chemotherapy groups was 2 months, whereas survival in the vitamin C group was 10 months.(2)
An interesting phase I-II clinical trial was conducted where 14 advanced cancer patients (cancers of the lung, colon, rectum, bladder, ovary, cervix, breast, biliary tract and tonsil) who were receiving chemotherapy, and who also received intravenous vitamin C, were analyzed for clinical response. During the weeks of chemotherapy, intravenous vitamin C was administered three times per week, and during the off-weeks, intravenous vitamin C was administered twice per week. Six patients experienced transient stable disease. Three patients experienced unusually long-lasting favourable experiences that was deemed to be unlikely due to chemotherapy.(3)
HEAD AND NECK CANCER
A study of head and neck cancer patients compared clinical responses to 1) those undergoing an intense radiotherapy regimen (5 days a week for 7 weeks) who also received intravenous vitamin C, and 2) those who only received radiotherapy. Patients who had better clinical responses to the radiation had higher concentrations of vitamin C in the blood, and those who did not respond well or at all had lower concentrations of vitamin C.(4)
Ovarian cancer patients, a cancer type with a typically poor prognosis, have been shown to benefit from intravenous vitamin C. A study of 25 patients, 12 receiving chemotherapy, and 13 receiving chemotherapy plus intravenous vitamin C for 12 months, showed significantly less side effects from chemotherapy, with a trend towards longer survival times.(5)
A small study of individuals with stage IV pancreatic cancer received intravenous vitamin C and gemcitabine concurrently, showing that there was no interference of the vitamin C with the chemotherapy, and side effects of the drug were greatly decreased.(6)
While the above information is not a comprehensive breakdown of the research in its entirety, it gives you a snapshot of what you can expect. The overall results of receiving intravenous vitamin C are reductions of side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, and possibly a better response when the intravenous vitamin C and chemo/radiation are used together.
- Yonsei Med J, 2015; 56(5):1449-52.
- Nutr Cancer, 2015; 67(6):921-925.
- PLoS One; 2015; 10(4):e0120228.
- The Open Clinical Cancer Journal, 2010; 4:1-2.
- Sci Transl Med, 2014; 6(222):222ra18.
- Cancer Chemother Pharmacol, 2013; 71(3):765-775.