Vitamin C is good at helping you ward off colds, viruses, and…cancer? New research has not only confirmed the vitamin’s cancer-fighting abilities, but also figured out what makes high doses of vitamin C so dangerous for cancer cells, but harmless for healthy cells.
According to the new research, now published online in the journal Redox Biology, researchers from the University of Iowa found that vitamin C breaks down easily, creating hydrogen peroxide, a reactive oxygen species that causes damage to tissue and DNA. However, according to the research, cancer cells are much less capable of removing this damaging hydrogen peroxide than normal healthy cells are. Consequently, the team believes that high doses of vitamin C administered intravenously could be effective at helping to fight off cancer when used alongside standard chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“In this paper we demonstrate that cancer cells are much less efficient in removing hydrogen peroxide than normal cells. Thus, cancer cells are much more prone to damage and death from a high amount of hydrogen peroxide,” says Garry Buettner, a professor of radiation oncology and a member of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, and researcher involved in the project, in a recent statement. “This explains how the very, very high levels of vitamin C used in our clinical trials do not affect normal tissue, but can be damaging to tumor tissue.”
According to the study, high doses of vitamin C intravenously can bypass the stomach, which enables more of the nutrient to enter the bloodstream. Researchers plan to test the treatment on pancreatic and lung cancer patients, in combination with standard chemotherapy or radiation, to see if there is an improvement in outcomes.
This is not the first time scientists have recognized vitamin C’s cancer-fighting abilities. In 2015, a study published in Science found that vitamin C was also useful in treating mutated cancer cells in colorectal cancer patients that had been unresponsive to other treatment.
The team hopes that one day, high doses of vitamin C may become a standard treatment for cancer, offering patients a safer and more effective way to battle their disease.