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Cancer Health Center

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Study: Vitamin C May Fight Cancer

Lab Tests Show Possible Effect From IV Doses; More Work Needed

Vitamin C Safety Trial Under Way

Vitamin C was only tested on human cells -- not people -- in this study. But vitamin C is being tested in people in a new project.

"Because IV ascorbate is easily available to people who seek it, a phase 1 safety trial in patients with advanced cancer is justified and underway," write Levine and colleagues.

That trial will see if intravenous vitamin C is safe for people, Levine explains. Tests on animals will be done to see if it truly fights cancer.

"If there is something useful, that will be absolutely wonderful for patients. If it turns out that the mechanisms do not hold up in animals in vivo, then maybe we will say that there is no point to do IV ascorbate," says Levine.

He notes that some complementary and alternative medicine practitioners worldwide use intravenous vitamin C for cancer treatment.

New Twist on an Old Theory

The idea that vitamin C might protect against cancer is more than half a century old and has been "colorful and emotionally charged," says Levine.

The theory was discarded 20 years ago by many scientists when other researchers found no benefit in giving vitamin C to patients with advanced cancer. In that study, vitamin C was given orally, not intravenously, notes Levine.

Scientists may not have considered that injected vitamin C might work differently than oral vitamin C, Levine explains.

Unexpected Result

Levine's team didn't start by studying vitamin C and cancer. Instead, they were probing nutrition and vitamin recommendations in healthy people.

Normally, the body tightly controls vitamin C taken by mouth. It quickly gets rid of too much vitamin C. Injected vitamin C bypasses those controls, says Levine.

"I realized that concentrations given intravenously at higher doses could be much higher than could ever be achieved by mouth," he says. "This is not nutrition use of ascorbic acid. This is potential use of ascorbic acid as a drug, and it must be said, it's not ready for prime time."

Diet Recommendations

Science has a lot to sort out about vitamin C and cancer. Meanwhile, Levine recommends eating your fruits and vegetables. These include orange and grapefruit juice and fruits, raw red peppers, strawberries, and broccoli.

"Independent of this work, our recommendations are to consume vitamin C through foods and eat at least five varied fruits and vegetables a day," he says.

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