IV Vitamin C Boosts Chemo's Cancer-Fighting Power?
Lab study found it also left healthy cells unharmed, but experts say more research needed
The researchers then tested vitamin C on mice with induced ovarian cancer. The vitamin appeared to help chemotherapy drugs either inhibit the growth of tumors or help shrink them.
Finally, the team conducted a pilot phase clinical trial involving 27 patients with stage III or stage IV ovarian cancer.
The patients who received intravenous vitamin C along with their chemotherapy reported less toxicity of the brain, bone marrow and major organs, the investigators found.
These patients also appeared to add nearly 8.75 months to the time before their disease relapsed and progressed, compared with people who only received chemotherapy. The researchers did note that the study was not designed to test the statistical significance of that finding.
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.