JUN 16, 2017 6:07 AM PDT

Vitamin C & Antibiotics: A Potent Duo Against Cancer?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Over the years, vitamin C has become synonymous with health, vigor, and vitality. Now the compound, in combination with an antibiotic, has been shown to be effective at killing cancer stem cells. The discovery shines a new light on vitamin C and its cancer-killing potential.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Vitamin C has a long record 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. Moreover, this compound has also been explored as an anticancer agent for several types of cancer, including colon cancer and leukemia.

But targeting cancer stem cells with vitamin C has never been attempted before. Similar to healthy stem cells, cancer stem cells  have the capacity to self-renew and differentiate into many other cell types. In the case of cancer stem cells, however, the result could be new tumor formation, metastasis, and drug resistance. "Therefore, new therapeutic strategies are necessary to identify and eradicate CSCs," the authors wrote in their study, published in the journal Oncotarget.

In the current study, the researchers are expanding on one of their previous findings - that vitamin C alone was able to kill cancer stem cells. Now, they’re testing whether this cancer-killing potential can be augmented with the addition of doxycycline, a common antibiotic.

Indeed, the team found that the vitamin C plus antibiotic combination was 100 times more effective at killing cancer stem cells than 2-DG, a drug under clinical trial to treat cancer. This is about 10 times more potent than treating the cancer cells with vitamin C alone.

The researchers hypothesize that the antibiotic stymied the cancer’s ability to switch fuels for energy. That is, without “metabolic flexibility,” as induced by the doxycycline, the cancer cells had to rely solely on glucose for survival. Then, they hypothesize that vitamin C acted as a “second punch,” and removed the source of glucose, which starved the cancer cells.

"In this scenario, vitamin C behaves as an inhibitor of glycolysis, which fuels energy production in mitochondria, the 'powerhouse' of the cell," said Dr. Federica Sotgia, a study co-author.

"This is further evidence that vitamin C and other non-toxic compounds may have a role to play in the fight against cancer," said Dr. Lisanti. "Our results indicate it is a promising agent for clinical trials, and as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumor recurrence, further disease progression, and metastasis."

Additional source: MNT

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
JAN 15, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 15, 2020
Laser microchip picks up cancer markers in urine
A future where patients no longer need to endure expensive, painful and complicated cancer tests could soon become a reality. Researchers have developed a...
JAN 08, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 08, 2020
Major Study Does Not Find Strong Link Between Talcum Powder and Cancer
Competing opinions regarding the safety of talcum powder have developed throughout the past several decades. Talc is commonly used as baby powder and is al...
JAN 20, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 20, 2020
Epigenetic Changes Make Breast Cancer Cells Drug Resistant
Researchers have found that changes in the structure of the genome in breast cancer cells can make them resistant to drug therapies....
FEB 11, 2020
Cancer
FEB 11, 2020
Could we be over-diagnosing cancer?
Roughly one in every two people are estimated to receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, but are all of those diagnoses valid? New researc...
FEB 19, 2020
Immunology
FEB 19, 2020
Testing the Immune Response to Ovarian Cancer Treatment
There is a new diagnostic test for the deadliest form of gynecological cancer – ovarian cancer. Better tests mean better diagnostics, and better diag...
FEB 18, 2020
Cancer
FEB 18, 2020
Are you at risk of endometrial cancer?
Are you concerned about endometrial cancer? New research published recently in the Journal of Medical Genetics has identified 24 genetic variants that...
Loading Comments...