New research demonstrates that vitamin C targets and kills cancer stem cells, the cells responsible for cancer tumors growing and spreading. Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Salford found that vitamin C — ascorbic acid — was up to 10 times more effective in stopping cancer than experimental treatments.
"We have been looking at how to target cancer stem cells with a range of natural substances, but by far the most exciting are the results with vitamin C," said Dr. Michael P. Lisanti.
Cancer stem-like cells are thought to be resistant to chemotherapy, which leads to treatment failure in patients with advanced disease. Researchers also believe that cancer stem cells (CSC) trigger the recurrence of tumors and fuel their growth. This allows them to spread throughout the body and cause death.
The Salford scientists set out to evaluate the bioenergetics of cancer stem cells — the processes which allow the cells to live and thrive — with the intent of disrupting their metabolism.
They studied the impact of seven substances: the clinically-approved epilepsy drug stiripentol, three natural products — caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), silibinin and ascorbic acid — and experimental pharmaceuticals actinonin, FK866 and 2-DG.
While they found that natural antibiotic actinonin and the compound FK866 were the most potent, the natural products also inhibited the formation of cancer stem cells, with vitamin C outperforming 2-DG 10-fold in terms of potency.
"Controlling cancer stem cells is the only way to control cancer and is a major weapon against metastatic cancer, which is the main killer of cancer patients," neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock tells Newsmax Health.
"Conventional chemo and radiation can cure or control only 5 to 10 percent of metastatic cancers," says Blaylock, author of Dr. Blaylock's Prescriptions for Natural Health.
"Vitamin C is cheap, natural, non-toxic and readily available," Lisanti said, "so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step."
Lead author Gloria Bonuccelli said, "Our results indicate it is a promising agent for clinical trials, and as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumor recurrence, further disease progression and metastasis."
The effectiveness of vitamin C in fighting cancer has been hotly debated. Laboratory studies found that vitamin C killed cancer cells in the laboratory and also in mice, but similar results haven't always been supported in human studies.
Experts speculate that contrary to laboratory and mice studies, most human studies have been conducted using oral vitamin C, and most is unused and excreted in urine. "The dose of vitamin C has to be very high," says Blaylock. Very high doses are usually reached by IV infusion.
Until now, researchers have also believed that vitamin C's anti-cancer potential is due to its antioxidant capabilities. However, researchers at the University of Iowa also found that vitamin C may actually work by generating free radicals that literally tear cancer cells apart while avoiding healthy cells.
A study published in Science found that vitamin C caused oxidative stress in cancer cells and turned off an enzyme cancer cells use to reproduce.
Vitamin C has also been shown to be effective in other areas of health:
• An analysis of 29 randomized human studies by scientists at Johns Hopkins found that a 500 milligram tablet of vitamin C each day significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
• A European study of almost 20,000 men and women found that mortality from cardiovascular disease was 60 percent lower in people with the highest concentrations of vitamin C in their blood when compared to those with the lowest concentrations.
• A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men with the lowest blood levels of vitamin C had a 62 percent higher risk of cancer-related death after a 12 to 16 year period, compared to those with the highest vitamin C levels.
• A Finnish study, which was published in Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, found that vitamin C halved the incidence and duration of the symptoms of bronchoconstriction, which causes symptoms of asthma during exercise. It also increased the post-exercise capacity of the lung's small airways by 50 to 150 percent in more than 40 percent of asthmatics.
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