Questions and Answers About High-Dose Vitamin C
High-dose vitamin C has been studied as a treatment for patients with cancer since the 1970s. A Scottish surgeon named Ewan Cameron worked with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling to study the possible benefits of vitamin C therapy in clinical trials of cancer patients in the late 1970s and early 1980’s.
Surveys of healthcare practitioners at United States CAM conferences in recent years have shown that high-dose IV vitamin C is frequently given to patients as a treatment for infections, fatigue, and cancers, including breast cancer.
Dr. Stegall’s comments: Intravenous vitamin C is a key component of my cancer treatment protocols. There are several advantages to giving it via IV, including the fact that we can use higher doses than we can orally and that it acts as a pro-oxidant (rather than an anti-oxidant) and can thus kill cancer cells. I have also found that it is effective in combination with chemotherapy, and multiple studies back this up. In other words, the studies found that vitamin C makes the chemotherapy work better than if chemotherapy was given alone.
Is Vitamin C Cancer Therapy Effective?
Rather than attack cancer cells directly, vitamin C compounds appear to convert into another oxidized substance known as dehydroascorbic acid, or DHA. The DHA tricks cancer cells into accepting it for entry. Only once it gains access, this DHA is converted back into ascorbic acid (a type of vitamin C), causing cancer cells to essentially commit suicide.
Dr. Stegall’s comments: IV vitamin C is definitely an effective treatment, but I have found that it should not be a stand-alone treatment for cancer. It works best when it is also part of a protocol which includes fractionated chemotherapy, nutrition, and supplementation, among other modalities.
Re-Assessment Urged for Intravenous Vitamin C and Cancer
The three case reports increase the “clinical plausibility” that vitamin C may have a benefit, Dr. Padayatty and colleagues wrote in the March 28 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
It is now known, they said, that high-dose intravenous — but not oral — vitamin C therapy results in plasma concentrations of about 14,000 micromole per liter. Oral doses result in plasma concentrations of at best 220 micromole per liter.
At those concentrations in vitro, Dr. Padayatty and colleagues said, the vitamin is toxic to some cancer cells, but not to normal cells — a finding that increases the “biological plausibility” of a beneficial effect.
Dr. Stegall’s comments: There are many case reports of patients who used IV vitamin C as part of their integrative cancer treatment protocol and had good success. The key is using this science in the most appropriate way for each patient, which includes many factors such as the cancer diagnosis and other treatments being used or considered.