by Leesa Kirchner, ND, FABNO

(The Clinic offers naturopathic IV cancer treatments. Contact clinic reception at 613-839-1198 for info and booking appts.)

vitamin_cIt has been known for years that vitamin C has several actions that may offer protection against cancer. It protects cellular structures, including DNA from damage.

Vitamin C also helps the body deal with environmental pollution and toxic chemicals, enhances immune function, and inhibits the formation of cancer-causing compounds such as nitrosamines.

More recently there has been an emergence of scientific evidence showing that high doses of vitamin C can preferentially kill cancer cells; meaning it is only toxic to cancer cells and not normal healthy cells.

Vitamin C is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. We need 60 mg per day to prevent scurvy which is the disease associated with vitamin C deficiency. However, the low dose that is required to prevent scurvy is not what we should obtain on a daily basis to optimally run all functions in the body and to prevent disease from developing in the first place.

In order for vitamin C to act as a cytotoxic (toxic to cells) agent, very high doses (50-100 grams which is 50,000-100,000 mg) must be given. However, there is a limit to the amount of vitamin C that can be absorbed when taken orally (by mouth). Generally, people will experience diarrhea at doses anywhere from 2000 mg to 10,000 mg (2-10 grams) depending on their tolerance and tissue saturation.

IV-dripWhen given intravenously (through a catheter directly into a vein) the digestive system is by-passed, thus much higher doses can be administered without causing any bowel concerns.

In addition, research has shown that blood levels of vitamin C are approximately 400% higher when administered by IV versus taken orally. This significantly increased blood level of vitamin C is what contributes to its anti-cancer or cytotoxic activity.

The use of vitamin C as a cytotoxic agent is not new. High doses of intravenous vitamin C have been used to treat cancer for over 30 years. Many positive results on various cancer types have been obtained, but much of this evidence was anecdotal (meaning many doctors were getting good results, but these weren’t published in scientific journals and were thus hard to substantiate).

More recently, several scientific studies have been published that document results in mice and people living with cancer, in particular results of treatment with intravenous vitamin C in combination with chemotherapy. These studies have shown that intravenous vitamin C when used alongside chemotherapy can reduce treatment side effects, improve cancer-related symptoms and even reduce tumor size.

Currently, several other clinical trials are being conducted in humans at various university medical centres throughout North America.

Published studies have helped us to understand that vitamin C preferentially kills cancer cells through two mechanisms:

  1. In low doses vitamin C works as an antioxidant BUT in high doses, vitamin C changes roles and becomes a pro-oxidant, causing hydrogen peroxide to be formed. Hydrogen peroxide is a free-radical that damages DNA and other cell structures. In healthy cells, this hydrogen peroxide is immediately neutralized/destroyed by an enzyme called catalase. Cancer cells differ from healthy cells in that they are deficient in catalase. Thus, in cancer cells, hydrogen peroxide builds up and kills the cells. Healthy cells remain unharmed.
  1. The other way vitamin C works is to increase collagen production, the glue that holds the body together. To make collagen we require an amino acid called proline. The biochemical process called hydroxylation requires the presence of vitamin C, which renders proline available for collagen production. Research has shown that vitamin C dramatically increases the collagen within tumor cells, an act that tends to immobilize the cells, “gluing” them into place. Without mobility metastasis is blocked.

The frequency of administration of the vitamin C needs to be individualized to each patient and will depend on factors such as the staging of the cancer, and any treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation that are currently taking place.

A common recommendation for treatment is 2-3 times per week, and each treatment lasts 1.5-2 hours depending on the dose required. When administered properly, intravenous vitamin C is very safe. Patients need to be screened with a simple blood test prior to beginning treatment.

Intravenous vitamin C as a ‘natural chemotherapy’ not only makes scientific sense, but is steadily becoming more recognized as a valid treatment option as the body of evidence showing that it is both safe and effective is growing.