SEP 01, 2016 11:29 AM PDT

Can Vitamin C Help Leukemia Patients Beat Cancer?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Health experts and nutritionists often tout the benefits of the vitamin C. Indeed this compound has even been explored as an anticancer agent for colon cancer. Now scientists at the Van Andel Research Institute reported that vitamin C supplements could enhance a drug’s ability to slow down cancer growth.

Supplementing leukemia drug with vitamin C shows promise | Image: pexels.com The new data, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) showed that vitamin C supplementation along with the cancer drug decitabine (5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine) had positive, synergistic effects on cancer cell lines. In particular, cells treated with this combination had slower growth and more instances of cellular self-destruction.
 
Already, a small pilot clinical trial is ongoing based on the reported results. The clinical trial aims to treat patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with the drug azacitidine supplemented with vitamin C.
 
"If the pilot trial is successful, we plan to pursue a larger trial to explore this strategy's potential as a straightforward and cost-effective way to improve the existing therapy for AML and MDS," said Peter Jones, co-senior author of the PNAS study.
 
The team noted that cancer patients are often deficient in vitamin C. They hope that raising the levels of this compound to normal levels would show the same synergistic effects for cancer patients.
 
Despite their hopes, the team is quick to note that vitamin c supplement should not be taken lightly, especially for cancer patients for whom proper nutrition is of great importance. "… we must urge patience and caution,” said Jones. “Only a clinical trial that combines azacitidine with the blinded addition of either vitamin C or a placebo will give the true answer as to whether or not vitamin C increases the efficacy of azacitidine in patients. We must emphasize that our trial is limited to a certain subset of patients with MDS or AML on a specific therapeutic regimen. We do not have evidence that this approach is appropriate for other cancers or chemotherapies." As such, they advise all patients to consult with their physicians before making any changes at all.
 
 
Of note, vitamin C has had a long stint with the medical community. In 1753, the compound was shown to ward off scurvy – a condition that was common among sailors at the time. Since then, vitamin C was purported to be effective against viruses like the common cold and the flu. However, the data behind these claims were weak and have never been fully substantiated. Still, people aren’t fazed – we still gulp down OJ at the first sign of a cold.
 
And so, vitamin C continues to be pursued by both scientists and the public as a source of treatment for our many ails. In the case of MDS and AML, if vitamin C could really boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy, then this will truly be a game-changer moment in medicine. "It is truly exciting to consider that there could be a simple and elegant approach to help patients fight MDS and AML. However, as a physician, I strongly urge patients to wait for the results of the clinical trial and to discuss all dietary and supplemental changes with their doctors,” said Kirsten Grønbæk, who is leading the clinical trial in Copenhagen.
 
Additional source: Van Andel Research Institute
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2019
Cancer
OCT 21, 2019
Will Light Therapy Edge Out Opioids for Cancer Mouth Pain?
Photobiomodulation therapy, a form of low-dose light therapy, has now been found to be one of the best ways to treat the pain of oral mucositis, the mouth ...
OCT 21, 2019
Cancer
OCT 21, 2019
Combining Breast and Lung Cancer Drugs to Overcome Treatment Resistance
The efforts to overcome cancer’s ability to evolve and resist treatment take many forms and comprise a vital and active branch of contemporary cancer...
OCT 21, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
OCT 21, 2019
Anti-cancer Drug Disguises as Fat
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), a new drug-delivery system disguises as fat in order to outsmart tum...
OCT 21, 2019
Cancer
OCT 21, 2019
Do fat cells make melanoma turn aggressive?
New research published in the journal Science Signaling suggests surprising insight on melanoma, which although only accounts for 1% of skin cancer diagnos...
OCT 21, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 21, 2019
A Canine Cancer That Began to Spread From One Dog About 6,000 Years Ago
Dogs can get different kinds of cancers, including one that is transmitted by live cancer cells, which spread through sexual contact....
OCT 21, 2019
Cancer
OCT 21, 2019
Scientists develop a single delivery immunotherapy threatment
Research published recently in Cell Stem Cell details the results from a new anticancer immunotherapy that uses invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells. Th...
Loading Comments...