The Result of Vitamin C Treatment of Patients with Cancer: Conditions Influencing the Effectiveness

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Vitamin C (ascorbic acid, AA) is a weak sugar acid structurally related to glucose. All known physiological and biochemical functions of AA are due to its action as an electron donor. Ascorbate readily undergoes pH-dependent autoxidation creating hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). In vitro evidence suggests that vitamin C functions at low concentrations as an antioxidant while high concentration is pro-oxidant. Thus, both characters of AA might be translated into clinical benefits. In vitro obtained results and murine experiments consequently prove the cytotoxic effect of AA on cancer cells, but current clinical evidence for high-dose intravenous (i.v.) vitamin C’s therapeutic effect is ambiguous. The difference might be caused by the missing knowledge of AA’s actions. In the literature, there are many publications regarding vitamin C and cancer. Review papers of systematic analysis of human interventional and observational studies assessing i.v. AA for cancer patients’ use helps the overview of the extensive literature. Based on the results of four review articles and the Cancer Information Summary of the National Cancer Institute’s results, we analyzed 20 publications related to high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy (HAAT). The analyzed results indicate that HAAT might be a useful cancer-treating tool in certain circumstances. The AA’s cytotoxic effect is hypoxia-induced factor dependent. It impacts only the anoxic cells, using the Warburg metabolism. It prevents tumor growth. Accordingly, discontinuation of treatment leads to repeated expansion of the tumor. We believe that the clinical use of HAAT in cancer treatment should be reassessed. The accumulation of more study results on HAAT is desperately needed.

Keywords: cancer, intravenous vitamin C, high-dose vitamin C therapy, clinical trials