Vitamin C may have some cancer-fighting potential, new research shows.
It’s possible, but many questions remain, write Mark Levine, MD, and colleagues in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This is not ready for patients yet,” Levine tells WebMD. He is the chief and senior staff physician at the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a branch of the National Institutes of Health.
“What this does is provide plausibility that we should be reinvestigating ascorbic acid in cancer treatment. It’s not ready for patients. Patients shouldn’t get the wrong idea. We don’t want to provide false hope,” says Levine, reports FOX News.
As part of those studies Levine and his team examined the body's absorption of the nutrient and found that while oral intake does reach a saturation point, "when you give doses intravenously they go through the roof in the blood and then they are cleared," Levine explained.
According to Levine, a 10 gram dose of vitamin C given intravenously produces bloodstream concentrations more than 25-fold higher than concentrations achieved from the same oral dose.
Some antibiotics are poorly absorbed when given orally but fight infections effectively when given intravenously, and Levine and his team thought that might be the case with vitamin C and cancer.
Working with cell lines in the laboratory, they used high doses of vitamin C that could only be achieved by IV administration.
"At the highest concentration of ascorbic acid, if given intravenously, they don't touch normal cells and they kill lots of cancer cells. We don't know why," Levine said.
According to the study, published in the Sept. 12-16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vitamin C led to the formation of hydrogen peroxide, a chemical that can kill cells. This suggests a potential mechanism for therapy, Levine said.
"The mechanism has to be validated in animals the effects tested in animals to see if this is true," he said, informs Forbes.