Study suggesting that Vitamin C could reduce effectiveness of chemotherapy for cancer patients is questioned

    Many points need further examination, says Orthomolecular Health

    TORONTO, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - While the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
has announced that as little as 100 milligrams of Vitamin C may interfere with
chemotherapy, before cancer patients throw away their Vitamin C supplements,
they need to better understand the study itself.

    Citing extensive research, Orthomolecular Health explores the following
crucial details of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering study:

    -   The research involved mice (it was not a human clinical trial) and a
        mouse's ability to make Vitamin C was an overlooked confounding
    -   The Sloan-Kettering study seems to have missed the essential point
        that Vitamin C is not just an antioxidant. Inside cancer tumors, it
        also acts as a prooxidant killing malignant cells.
    -   Vitamin C, in doses far higher than 100 mg/day, is known to help
        prevent cancer in humans. In very high oral and intravenous doses,
        Vitamin C therapy results in greatly enhanced quality of life and
        length of life for cancer patients.

    While media reported the researchers' claim that the equivalent of 2,000
mg of Vitamin C "blunted the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drugs," only
some reports included the study author's incredible statement that "If you
take an oral dose even as low as 100 milligrams a day" even "that could be
harmful" during chemotherapy (1).
    100 mg "could be harmful"? That's the amount of Vitamin C in a few
glasses of orange juice. Something is very wrong here.
    First of all, this research involved mice with implanted cancerous
tumors; it was not a trial on cancer patients. A mouse study is a long way
from a human clinical trial. This obvious difference was conceded by the study
authors. However, there is a more subtle and probably much more important
factor they did not consider: all mice make their own Vitamin C. Indeed, mice
make quite a lot. Adjusted for body weight, mice synthesize the human body
weight equivalent of approximately 10,000 milligrams of Vitamin C each day(2).
Incredibly, sick mice make even more. Mice given transplanted tumors become
sick mice.
    Secondly, previous research has demonstrated that mice with cancer
respond well to high-dose Vitamin C therapy. One study found, "With an
increase in the amount of ascorbic acid there is a highly significant decrease
in the first-order rate constant for appearance of the first spontaneous
mammary tumor... Striking differences were observed between the 0.076%
ascorbic acid and the control groups, which synthesize the vitamin."(3)
Another study concluded that: "A pronounced effect of Vitamin C in decreasing
the incidence and delaying the onset of malignant lesions was observed with
high statistical significance. By 20 weeks, approximately five times as many
mice had developed serious lesions in the zero-ascorbate as in the
high-ascorbate group."(4)
    Interestingly enough, when this research was first publicized, the media
discounted these findings saying that mouse studies were not particularly
applicable to people.
    Thirdly, a mouse's ability to make Vitamin C, and a great deal of it, is
an overlooked confounding factor that may well render the entire experiment
invalid. If the Sloan-Kettering team had tried their experiment on Guinea
pigs, their results might have been very different. Guinea pigs are more like
human beings in that they cannot make their own Vitamin C. As controls for
comparison, the researchers also treated "no-added-Vitamin C" mouse cancers
with chemotherapy. Chemo worked just fine on those mice, by the researchers
own admission. And each of those mice was internally synthesizing a body
weight equivalent of 10,000 mg/day of Vitamin C, even though given none via
    So how come 10,000 mg of Vitamin C does not interfere with chemo
treatment, and 2,000 mg - or even 100 mg - supposedly does?
    A sweeping recommendation warning cancer patients to not take
supplemental Vitamin C, not even 100 mg, is irresponsible. It is impossible to
justify caution about taking 100 mg of Vitamin C daily when your animal
subjects made the equivalent of one hundred times that amount, and
chemotherapy in them was still reported as effective. You cannot have it both
ways. If a synthesized 10,000 mg of C does not interfere, there can be no real
"interference" or "blunting" from a supplemental 2,000 mg. And most certainly
not from 100 mg.
    The study did report tumor shrinkage, in both groups of mice receiving
chemo. That is not surprising. Chemotherapy's claimed success is based on
tumor shrinkage. But tumor shrinkage, encouraging though it is, is not a
reliable indicator of long-term cancer survival. As cancer research critic
Philip Day puts it, many patients are "cured but dead" after five years,
hardly a long-term survival. Day, noting that this is not because oncologists
are not trying, explains the chemotherapy quandary: "You can be insincere, or
you can be sincerely wrong."(5)
    The Sloan-Kettering study team seems to have missed the essential point
that Vitamin C is not just an antioxidant. Inside cancer tumors, it also acts
as a prooxidant killing malignant cells. Comments Dr. Steve Hickey, of
Manchester Metropolitan University: "Essentially, the paper seems to be rather
misguided and shows a lack of understanding of the dual nature of Vitamin C in
tumors. Chemotherapy has been shown by over 40 years of clinical trials not to
work in the majority of tumors, and its use is counter productive."
    Chemotherapy drugs have come and gone; the five year survival rate for
cancer treated with chemo has remained virtually unchanged for decades.
Unfortunately, just over 2 per cent of all cancers respond to chemotherapy.
Specifically, one scientific review concluded, "The overall contribution of
curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was
estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the U. S. - chemotherapy only
makes a minor contribution to cancer survival. To justify the continued
funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous
evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently
    Perhaps this new, very well-publicized study results from an ever-growing
realization that chemotherapy is largely ineffective, and the search is on for
the reason why. Vitamin C should not be made the scapegoat.
    Vitamin C, in doses well over 100 mg/day, is known to help prevent
cancer.(7) Nearly 30 years ago, a review concluded that "Many factors involved
in host resistance to neoplasia are significantly dependent upon the
availability of ascorbate."(8) Beginning in the 1970s, many well-designed
studies show that very large doses of Vitamin C improve both quality and
length of life for cancer patients since they invariably are "significantly
depleted of ascorbic acid." When given intravenous Vitamin C, "the mean
survival time is more than 4.2 times as great for the ascorbate subjects ...
This simple and safe form of medication is of definite value in the treatment
of patients with advanced cancer."(9) Additional clinical trials have
confirmed this over the past several decades.(10)
    Even more importantly, recent research indicates that in high doses,
Vitamin C is selectively toxic to cancer cells. That means Vitamin C can
function very much like chemotherapy is supposed to, but without the severe
side effects of chemotherapy. "A regimen of daily pharmacologic ascorbate
treatment significantly decreased growth rates of ovarian, pancreatic, and
glioblastoma tumors established in mice. Similar pharmacologic concentrations
were readily achieved in humans given ascorbate intravenously."(11)
    "Cautioning" the public to avoid taking any supplemental amount of
Vitamin C will decrease host resistance to cancer, increase the incidence of
this dreaded disease, and shorten survival times. A cynic might say it will
also create a larger market for chemotherapy.
    Is Vitamin C a commercial competitor for chemo? To answer this, one needs
to consider what appears to be serious conflict of interest at
Sloan-Kettering. Bristol-Myers-Squibb makes chemotherapeutic drugs. According
to a DEF 14A SEC filing of March 22, 2006, the Chairman of the Board of
Bristol-Myers-Squibb is also a director of the Coca-Cola Company, and Honorary
Chairman of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
( A
previous Bristol-Myers-Squibb Chairman of the Board was a director of the New
York Times Company. He was also Vice Chairman of the Board of Overseers and
the Board of Managers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Chairman
of the Board of Managers of Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.
( Some sources say that there are even
more Bristol-Myers-Squibb directors who have or held positions on the board at
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.(12)
    Positive endorsements for Vitamin C as a cancer fighter are not in the
interests of any pharmaceutical company. Scaring the public away from Vitamin
C might be profitable. It appears that Sloan-Kettering is biased. So are media
reports that attack vitamins.
    If the Sloan-Kettering study authors' recommendations to not take 2,000
mg, or even 100 mg, of Vitamin C are followed, there will definitely be an
increase in the number of people that need chemotherapy.


    (1) Doheny K. Vitamin C and chemotherapy: bad combo? Supplementing with
    Vitamin C may reduce effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, study shows.
    WebMD Health News.

    (2) Chatterjee IB, Majumder AK, Nandi BK, Subramanian N. Synthesis and
    some major functions of Vitamin C in animals. Ann N Y Acad Sci.
    1975 Sep 30;258:24-47.

    (3) Pauling L, Nixon JC, Stitt F et al. Effect of dietary ascorbic acid
    on the incidence of spontaneous mammary tumors in RIII mice. Proc Natl
    Acad Sci U S A. 1985 Aug;82(15):5185-9.

    (4) Pauling L. Effect of ascorbic acid on incidence of spontaneous
    mammary tumors and UV-light-induced skin tumors in mice. Am J Clin Nutr.
    1991 Dec;54(6 Suppl):1252S-1255S. Read the full paper free of charge at

    (5) Day P. in the documentary film Food Matters,  See also: Day P. Cancer: why we're still
    dying to know the truth. Credence Publications, 1999. ISBN-10:
    0953501248; SBN-13: 978-0953501243

    (6) Morgan G, Ward R, Barton M. The contribution of cytotoxic
    chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Clin Oncol
    (R Coll Radiol). 2004 Dec;16(8):549-60.

    (7) Enstrom JE, Kanim LE, Klein MA. Vitamin C intake and mortality among
    a sample of the United States population. Epidemiology.
    1992 May;3(3):194-202.

    (8) Cameron E, Pauling L, Leibovitz B. Ascorbic acid and cancer: a
    review. Cancer Res. 1979 Mar;39(3):663-81.

    (9) Cameron E, Pauling L. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive
    treatment of cancer: Prolongation of survival times in terminal human
    cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1976 Oct;73(10):3685-9. Read the
    original paper at

    (10) Murata A, Morishige F, and Yamaguchi H. Prolongation of survival
    times of terminal cancer patients by administration of large doses of
    ascorbate. International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research
    Suppl., 23, 1982.  p. 103-113. And: Null G, Robins H, Tanenbaum, M, and
    Jennings P. Vitamin C and the treatment of cancer: abstracts and
    commentary from the scientific literature. The Townsend Letter for
    Doctors and Patients, 1997. April/May. And: Vitamin C and cancer
    revisited. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 12;105(32):11037-8. Also:
    Riordan HD, Riordan NH, Jackson JA et al. Intravenous Vitamin C as a
    chemotherapy agent: a report on clinical cases. Puerto Rico Health
    Sciences J, June 2004, 23(2): 115-118.

    (11) Chen Q, Espey MG, Sun AY et al. Pharmacologic doses of ascorbate act
    as a prooxidant and decrease growth of aggressive tumor xenografts in
    mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 12;105(32):11105-9. See also:
    Chen Q, Espey MG, Sun AY et al. Ascorbate in pharmacologic concentrations
    selectively generates ascorbate radical and hydrogen peroxide in
    extracellular fluid in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.
    2007 May 22;104(21):8749-54. And: Chen Q, Espey MG, Krishna MC et al.
    Pharmacologic ascorbic acid concentrations selectively kill cancer cells:
    action as a pro-drug to deliver hydrogen peroxide to tissues. Proc Natl
    Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Sep 20;102(38):13604-9. And: Padayatty et al.
    Intravenously administered Vitamin C as cancer therapy: three cases.
    Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2006. 174(7), March 28, p 937-942. Also: Riordan NH et al.
    Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent.
    Medical Hypotheses, 1995. 44(3). p 207-213, March.

    (12) Moss R. Questioning Chemotherapy. Equinox Press, 1995. ISBN-10:
    188102525X; ISBN-13: 978-1881025252. See also: The Cancer Industry.
    Equinox Press, 1996. ISBN-10: 1881025098; ISBN-13: 978-1881025092.

    For additional information:

    Cameron E. and Pauling L. Cancer and Vitamin C, revised edition.
    Philadelphia: Camino Books, 1993.

    Hickey S and Roberts H. Cancer: nutrition and survival. Lulu Press, 2005.
    ISBN: 141166339X.

    Hoffer A. Healing cancer: complementary vitamin and drug treatments.
    Ontario: CCNM Press, 2004. ISBN-10: 1897025114; ISBN-13: 978-1897025116.

    For free access to an online archive of peer-reviewed, full-text nutrition
therapy papers: or

For further information:

For further information: Sonia Prashar or Michelle Di Rocco, APEX Public
Relations, T: (416) 924-4442 ext. 223, 260

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