Unexpected boost from novel source

By | Health & Wellness
Vitamin C, as shown here in its molecular form, has been shown to be effective for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Credit image@ Ben Mills, Benjah-bmm27, wikicommons.

Scientists from the United States’ University of Kansas Medical Centre have shown how using a vitamin supplement may eliminate cancer cells from healthy tissue, and also reduce the side effects seen in some patients following rounds of chemotherapy.

They published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine, available online this month. The vitamin in question was ascorbate, however is more commonly known as Vitamin C. This essential nutrient is used for a whole variety of tasks, notably acting as a cofactor for several reactions involving enzymes, such as those which make up part of collagen synthesis, for example.

This may be particularly important in maintaining healthy capillaries and blood vessels, helping the body heal.This vitamin is perhaps most commonly known in the public eye as a antioxidant, with a whole range of fruits and vegetables containing vast amounts of the compound, such as blueberries and peppers. Certain animal products also contain vitamin C, as several animals make it internally, with the highest concentrations found in the liver.

The idea of using Vitamin C when treating cancer has been around for the best part of forty years, with some “anecdotal reports” showing its benefits when provided intravenously, writes the University of Kansas Cancer Centre in its news release of the team’s findings.

However, with oral doses of the vitamin showing little effect during two clinical trials, the concept of Vitamin C as a supplement during cancer treatment was far from remembered, with oncologists at the time looking to other solutions instead. Yet, some doctors who practiced alternative or complementary forms of medicine continued to prescribe Vitamin C to cancer patients, which prompted the team to investigate whether it might live up to its potential, said senior author Qi Chen, PhD, during the news release.

This was supplemented by recent research showing the variation in pharmokinetics (what the body does to a drug) between oral and intravenous intake of Vitamin C, with the later producing concentrations of the compound in blood and tissue which, critically, eliminate cancer cells whilst leaving healthy tissue untouched.

Vitamin C seems to be a safe compound to use means it may have a vast amount of benefits. In order to test the efficacy of the vitamin, twenty-seven patients with Stage 3 or 4 ovarian cancer where monitored over five years, with some being given the intravenous vitamin supplement along side their normal chemotherapy treatment, which consisted of paclitaxel or carboplatin.They also tested the effects of intravenous doses of Vitamin C in rodents as part of their trials.

What they discovered was interesting. The cancer patients on the vitamin supplement showed a reduction in the levels of side effects typically found following chemotherapy, allowing for a greater quality of life whilst they received treatment.

In the rodent experiments, they were also able to observe beneficial effects of Vitamin C injections. The intravenous vitamin doses created sufficiently high concentrations of the compound in the interstitial fluid which surrounds the cancer cells, thus allowing the formation of hydrogen peroxide, which in turn eliminated the tumors via DNA alterations as part of an extensive biological pathway.

Thanks to their study, the team now has a better understanding of the true potential within intravenous Vitamin C injections. As a result, Dr. Drisko, who collaborated on the project and speaking for the University of Kansas news release, feels the results need to be the catalyst for a much larger clinical trial in order to see whether Vitamin C truly has a place in modern cancer treatments.

What other vitamins are available which may improve cancer treatments?

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