IV Vitamin C
Vitamin C is perhaps the best-known natural cancer treatment. It is an important antioxidant that is a key part of a healthy diet, but for the purposes of cancer treatment, the dosages required to obtain an anti-cancer effect must be administered intravenously. There is a limit to how much vitamin C can be absorbed through the digestive system. This is not to say that oral vitamin C is not beneficial, but in terms of how we use it to fight cancer, administering vitamin C through an IV is necessary.
Dosing and absorption are important here, because at a certain dose threshold, vitamin C stops acting like an antioxidant in the body and begins behaving like a pro-oxidant. In the pro-oxidant form, vitamin C gets inside cancer cells and turns into hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide is capable of killing cancer cells, since they do not have the mechanism to withstand it. As an added bonus, vitamin C is not thought to be harmful to healthy cells. This means that vitamin C is a powerful tool with a lot of potential upside but no real downside as far as we can tell.
Research on Vitamin C
Research from over 40 years ago uncovered a potential benefit from high dose vitamin C. Because of these encouraging results, a larger-scale trial was performed at the Mayo Clinic. This was a double-blind study of 100 patients with advanced colorectal cancer, none of whom had received chemotherapy. Those receiving vitamin C therapy were not found to have any objective improvement over those who did not. These results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985. Not surprisingly, this study was used to conclude that IV vitamin C was not effective against cancer. However, this study used high dose oral vitamin C, and not intravenous vitamin C. Case reports have been published since then which showed benefits from intravenous vitamin C against cancer.
Yet another benefit of high dose vitamin C is that it can make chemotherapy more effective in killing cancer cells. One notable study found that vitamin C potentiated the effect of several of the most commonly used drugs in breast cancer treatment. In order to take advantage of this effect, I like to give high dose vitamin C on days before and/or after chemotherapy treatment to hopefully maximize its efficacy.
The data thus far on IV vitamin C is very encouraging. Out of the many natural therapies in integrative oncology’s tool chest, intravenous vitamin C is perhaps the one that the conventional community is closest to embracing. However, as is the case with many alternative therapies, we need more research to better understand it. As with most alternative therapies, additional studies are needed to validate the positive effects we have seen in smaller studies and in clinical practice.