IV Vitamin C Boosts Chemo's Cancer-Fighting Power?
Lab study found it also left healthy cells unharmed, but experts say more research needed
Vitamin C in the bloodstream helps kill cancer cells because it chemically converts into hydrogen peroxide when it interacts with tumors, Drisko said.
"If you can get your blood levels of vitamin C very high, it gets driven into the space around the cancer cells," she explained. "In that space, it's converted into hydrogen peroxide. It's very similar to what our white blood cells do. They create hydrogen peroxide to fight infection."
Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said intravenous vitamin C therapy is not unheard of among cancer doctors.
"I've had patients come in and say they were doing vitamin C intravenous therapy," Bernik said. "I always tell them we don't know enough to know whether it is good or bad."
This new research raises interesting possibilities, but until larger clinical trials are conducted Bernik says her advice to patients will not change.
"You have to do a bigger study with patients and look at outcomes. You also have to make sure these treatments don't interfere with the treatments we're giving currently," she said. "There may be some efficacy in what they're doing. It just needs to be proven. This is just the start of more studies looking at this in-depth."
Dr. Michael Seiden, chief medical officer for The US Oncology Network, agreed.
"It is important to emphasize that many vitamin therapies have shown interesting results when applied to cancer cells in test tubes yet, to date, these approaches typically are not effective and occasionally prove harmful in human studies," he said. "At this time, there is still no evidence that high-dose vitamin C should be part of the treatment for women with ovarian cancer."
While she agreed that larger trials need to be conducted, Drisko was not as hesitant.
"It's safe. It's inexpensive. There's a plausible mechanism we're investigating for why it works," she said. "We should be using this in patients, rather than dragging our feet and worrying about using it at all."