Vitamin C effective at keeping cancer at bay, but pharmacies unlikely to investigate

US research has found that high doses of vitamin C are beneficial in killing cancer cells, when used in conjunction with chemotherapy. However, it is unlikely that any pharmaceutical companies will run their own studies, as vitamins cannot be patented, and therefore there would be no profit in it for them.


Vitamin C has been used in clinical trials before, but it was given orally and in low doses and as such, the effects were ineffective. It has since been discovered that the body excretes vitamin C quickly when given by mouth, and subsequent tests involved high dosed injections of the vitamin, directly into the body.

At the University of Kansas, in laboratory tests scientists injected vitamin C into human ovarian cancer cells in the lab, into mice, and into people suffering from advanced ovarian cancer. The researchers found that the ovarian cancer cells were particularly sensitive to vitamin C treatment, but the surrounding cells were left unharmed and unaffected.

iv-vitamin-cThe trials were carried out in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment in an attempt to halt tumour growth in mouse studies. The tests concluded that giving high doses of iv vitamin C could boost the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy drugs.

The trials were reported in Science Translational Medicine, where the researchers called for the government to investigate the effects. Lead researcher Qi Chen explained why: “Because vitamin C has no patent potential, its development will not be supported by pharmaceutical companies. We believe that the time has arrived for research agencies to vigorously support thoughtful and meticulous clinical trials with intravenous vitamin C.”

Co-researcher Dr Jeanne Drisko spoke to the BBC, and advised that oncologists were becoming more and more interested in using vitamins for cancer treatments: “Patients are looking for safe and low-cost choices in their management of cancer. Intravenous vitamin C has that potential based on our basic science research and early clinical data.”

However, Dr Kat Arney, who is the science communications manager for Cancer Research UK, said that although there had been a long history of research into vitamin C for treating cancer, there needed much more research into this area: “It’s difficult to tell with such a small trial – just 22 patients – whether high-dose vitamin C injections had any effect on survival, but it’s interesting that it seemed to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy. Any potential treatment for cancer needs to be thoroughly evaluated in large clinical trials to make sure it’s safe and effective, so further studies are needed before we know for sure what benefits high dose vitamin C may have for patients.”

Taking vitamin C orally is still popular in alternative cancer therapies and treatments, but because two cancer trials found this method of delivery to be ineffective, it was abandoned by conventional oncology.

However, using the iv delivery method is actually not a new treatment, as back in the 1940’s, one Dr. Fredrick R. Klenner used vitamin C to cure 60 out of 60 cases of polio, when there wasn’t a vaccine, and went on to cure chicken pox, measles, mumps and tetanus with huge doses of IV vitamin C. He also gave pregnant women high doses of vitamin C and these came to be known as Vitamin C Babies, as they were healthy and trouble free from illnesses. Then in the 1970’s, chemist Linus Pauling reported that giving vitamin C  intravenously was effective in treating cancer.

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