Vitamin C: Finally for Real?

Vitamin C:  Finally for Real?

A few hundred years ago, medicine would adopt any new treatment that seemed like a good idea-no testing required.  Unfortunately, the treatments weren’t always (or often) effective or safe. Worse still, once doctors got set in their ways it took generations to convince them that bleeding and blistering patients did more harm than good.

In the last century, medicine began requiring solid evidence before adopting new treatments. And though no system is perfect, modern treatments are much safer and more effective as a result of this more deliberate process. But it does mean that new treatments take a long time to develop. And sometimes doctors are unfairly criticized as being closed-minded grumps rather than healthy skeptics.

Doctors have long been skeptical about the possible benefits of vitamin supplements. A great many people accept vitamin supplements as a cure-all, despite a lack of clear evidence to support this. Vitamin C supplementation, for instance, hasn’t been endorsed as a treatment for anything except severe  deficiency.  But that may be about to change.

Last week, the University of Kansas Medical Center reported on a study of 27 ovarian cancer patients who received IV vitamin C in addition to standard chemotherapy.  The trial suggested a boosted cancer-killing effect with the combination. Also, patients seemed to have fewer side effects than usual. The article appears in the February 5th edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The study gives fascinating background on the lab experiments showing direct cancer-killing effects of vitamin C. It also references the previous failed vitamin C trials, and suggests that the failure may have stemmed from oral (rather than IV) dosing. It’s also interesting that the direct cancer-killing effect seems the result of direct oxidative damage, rather than the antioxidant effect most popular proponents of vitamin C endorse.

Keep in mind: this small study demonstrates the need for more testing. It isn’t yet time to start giving IV vitamin C along with standard chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. But I for one am intrigued, and will be anxiously following further developments.

Here is the press release  and the scientific abstract.