Intravenous vitamin C, and vitamin C megadoses
(Chris Woollams, CANCERactive) The use of Intravenous vitamin C (IVC) has its advocates all over the Western World. In America it may be called Intravenous Ascorbic Acid, or IAA. The 2014 news that Kansas University researchers have shown it enhanced chemotherapy action in mice, and reduced chemotherapy toxicity in humans seems to herald the start of another great debate over its benefits, especially as the researchers called for full scale clinical trials to take place in humans. IVC uses injections of vitamin C megadoses of up to 50 gms of vitamin C a day to increase ´oxygen´ levels in cells - and oxygen kills cancer cells. At least, that´s the theory.
Why injections of vitamin C? Well, oral doses are known to result in a delivery of less than 10 per cent of the vitamin C to the blood stream and then tissues. There is really little comparison between the two.
Importantly, the use of Intavenous Vitamin C is not just confined to cancer treatment. Far from it. For example, it is used in many burns units especially in the American Armed forces.
Suddenly at the start of 2011, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caused controversy by moving to ban the supply of intravenous vitamin C on the grounds that it was being used ´as a drug´ and therefore needs approval, and to do that it needs clinical trials behind it.
The Riordan Clinic has been using IVC for 20 years or more with no adverse effects being reported and critics have slammed the decision - even to the point of US Congressmen demanding greater accountability of the FDA. Why? Well the understanding of the use of Intravenous vitamin C is growing rapidly and in places like Neil Riordan´s Clinic and the Linus Pauling Institute some serious case studies have been showing important life-enhancing benefits of this non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy for cancer patients. The critics of the FDA claim that ´Big Pharma´ simply did not want their rule undermined.
Importantly, no proper randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials have yet been completed although they are planned. However, as the Kansas University team reported, vitamin C cannot be patented, so pharmaceutical companies are hardly likely to fund a clinical trial.
There is currently no phase III research for me to quote to interested cancer patients - on increasing survival or any other aspect of treatment.
Much of the ´evidence´ for IVC and vitamin C megadoses came originally from a 1976 study by Linus Pauling and Ewan Cameron on 100 cancer patients. In the research, the IVC ´significantly´ increased lifespans.
Attempts to ´reproduce´ this work merely muddied the waters - finding no effect from large doses of vitamin C with cancer patients. However, the three ´critical´ studies always used to damn the treatment did not use IVC but only oral vitamin C. And that is just poor science. Very poor science
A further ´problem´ ensued: One 2008 study showed that an oxidised form of vitamin C interfered with antineoplastic drugs - so currently Doctors warn that vitamin C may interfer with chemotherapy! The Kansas University research shows that could be completely wrong.
A number of private clinics in the UK treat patients with IVC. Sadly, a course of IVC can be very expensive.
Never mind the politics - it is the cancer patient who matters most. Does it deliver any benefit; and (as it is expensive) is it worth the money?
Here we discuss the theory of IVC and vitamin C megadoses with Dr Julian Kenyon of the UK´s Dove Clinic in Winchester, Hampshire.
CW: So is intravenous vitamin C really an ´alternative´ to conventional chemotherapy?
"Conventional oncology largely uses chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells and cancer is just such a complex illness. Current medicine is evidence based. However, what happens if you do not wish to have a conventional treatment such as chemotherapy? Are there alternatives? Yes, there are, but they currently have a poor evidence base, and are never likely to have the quality of evidence base which backs chemotherapy. Providing the cancer sufferer knows what the evidence is, then they can make treatment choices on an informed consent basis. In my view, it´s unethical for patients to be offered any treatment with a less good evidence base than chemotherapy, other than on an informed consent basis.
High dose intravenous vitamin C is one of these treatments, and we use it extensively in our clinic. It is one of our most effective treatments.
CW: Does it have to be an alternative? Could it be used as a complementary therapy?
"Clearly, because of the poor evidence base, we largely see chemotherapy and radiotherapy failures. Interestingly enough, those patients who deliberately seek us out and wish to try these approaches as a first line option, tend to be the "more well informed" public, and these include some doctors, which is indeed a curious situation".
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a major water-soluble antioxidant with a variety of biological functions. It may be important in maintaining proper immune cell function. Even though vitamin C commonly functions as an antioxidant, it can also act as a pro-oxidant, that is actually oxidising tissues, which is what chemotherapy does.
Vitamin C converts free radicals into hydrogen peroxide, a molecule that can damage cell membranes if not neutralised by an enzyme inside the cell called catalase.
The avoidance of vitamin C, and indeed all antioxidants when going through a chemotherapy programme, is important
Tumour cells have 10-1 00 times less catalase than normal cells, and are therefore more sensitive than normal to hydrogen peroxide. Vitamin C accumulates in solid tumours at concentrations higher than those in surrounding normal tissue. The accumulation of vitamin C preferentially in cancer tissues has raised concerns that vitamin C may provide tumours with anti-oxidant protection from chemotherapeutic agents. In practice therefore, the avoidance of vitamin C and indeed all antioxidants, when going through a chemotherapy programme, is important. So it should not be used to complement orthodox chemotherapy.
CW: Why did the attempts to replicate Linus Pauling´s IV work fail?
"To obtain vitamin C at pro-oxidant levels, at which it destroys cancer cells, is only achievable by intravenous infusion.
Plasma levels of vitamin C between 300-400 milligrams per 100cc are required in order to kill significant numbers of cancer cells. This requires intravenous infusions of 75 grams of vitamin C, (in some cases less, depending on the size of the patient and the tumour cell mass), infused intravenously on a daily basis for three weeks in order to be able to attain these plasma levels. It´s important to realise that the highest plasma level of vitamin C achievable in humans using oral supplementation is 4.5 milligrams per 100cc".
CW: You were right but I understand the new liposomal deliver systems deliver much higher doses. I must say that I have read several research studies that support your comments. For example, the 2008 strudy by Chen and his colleagues in Pubmed used pro-xidant levels of intravenous vitamin C in animals with brain tumours. They stated that the only way to get the required hydrogen-peroxide cytotoxicity levels was to give pharmacological levels intravenously. Let´s discuss other research? I have read about research supporting vitamin C megadoses, research saying that vitamin C can cause cancer (which was subsequently rubbished), and even work by Dr Fukumi Morishiga who used vitamin C with an extract of Reishi mushrooms and showed that all manner of cancers, from breast to brain cancer, regressed with some disppearing. What is your take on evidence for IVC?
"The Morishiga research was done when he was at the Linus Pauling Institute in California quite a few years ago. In fact, many studies have been done on vitamin C megadoses in the laboratory, with animals and humans. Phase I and Phase II clinical trials have been completed on IVC. (Phase II clinical trials have been carried out in Nebraska, USA and are about to be published). Phase III clinical studies are in discussion."
CW: There´s one taking place in Canada at the moment as well. What is a typical treatment programme?
"Our most common protocol is the use of 75 grams of vitamin C, in sterile water, with a number of minerals, particularly magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, B12 and some B vitamins.
The patient is infused over 2.5 hours daily for 3 weeks (excluding weekends). The vitamin C level at the end of the infusion course is tested and if this is sufficiently high then some significant tumour kill has happened. If it isn´t, then this regime may have to be repeated.
Lipoic acid has been found to enhance
the cancer killing effect of vitamin C
The advantage of using this approach is that it doesn´t carry the downsides of chemotherapy, and can be repeated many times.
The main downside is that if we are working with patients who have fluid accumulation in the chest, say from a lung cancer, or in the abdomen, say from ovarian cancer, then the fluid load that these intravenous infusions involve can make the situation worse. So in those patients we choose other safe options to kill cancer cells.
Concurrently with the high dose intravenous vitamin C, we use supplements, the most important of which is lipoic acid.
Lipoic acid has been found to enhance the cancer killing effect of vitamin C, and the mechanism for this is unknown.
The only side effect we see in this treatment is tiredness due to tumour cell death, as well as increased fluid accumulation in particular groups of patients, as mentioned above."
CW: I understand Doctor Hugh Riordan and his son Doctor Neil have worked for more than 15 years in this field, with some significant results.
"They call it Intravenous Ascorbic Acid, or IAA, and have been building case studies for 15 years. They are firm believers in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and its abilities to kill cancer cells and prevent the formation of blood supplies to tumours"
CW: I saw that they noted that IAA at 50 gm levels could kill cancer cells, often using 30 to 100 gms intravenously, but less was needed if lipoic acid was also added. They also use vitamin K and get even better enhancement of the immune system. The question is could oral doses ever work as well?
My understanding is that liposomal vitamin C offers a possible answer. The growth of liposomal supplements is based on the fact that if you swallow a high street supplement - even a large dose one - only 7 to 12 per cent of the vitamin may be delivered to the cells for which it was intended. Conversely, when you eat an orange, the body transports the vitamins and co-factors in liposomal packages to protect their levels when moving across cell membranes. Clearly liposomal vitamin C offers a real ´oral breakthrough´ but even then there is absolutely no research that oral intake can replicate intravenous action.
The Kansas University research seems a giant step in the right direction (see Cancer Watch Feb 2014)
Cancer patients just want to know - does it work? Does it increase survival times? Does it ´cure´ cancer? Or what? Riordan, the Linus Pauling Institute and others seem to think improved longevity is definitely the case. And they are all very experienced in working with IVC or IAA, as is Dr Julian Kenyon.
The Kansas University research indicates it helped improve carboplatin and paclitaxel results in mice models; and it helped reduce toxicity in human patients. So we have a start. But who is going to fund proper clinical trials? Certainly not the drugs companies - it is not in their interests. And without real clinical trials, cancer patients may never know the truth.
Perhaps with more research IVC might become part of an Integrative Treatment package. But at the moment this lack of knowledge doesn´t really help people with cancer.
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