DNC News


Vitamin C, Cancer and Politics

October 29, 2005 

Subject: IV Vitamin C effective cancer treatment. DORA report suggests naturopathic licensure.



I vividly recall a short aside in the midst of a lecture given by Dr. Gerald Kowalski, my chemistry professor at Plattsburgh State University College in 1978. Linus Pauling had published his book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold . At the time a study had just been published that suggested vitamin C had no effect on preventing or treating colds. Dr. Kowalski interrupted his lecture to review the results and then made a statement. In his estimate, irregardless of the study's negative outcome, 90% of the then current membership of the American Society of Chemists was still taking large daily doses of vitamin C. He summed this phenomenon up simply, “Linus Pauling is Linus Pauling. He invented biochemistry”


I bring this up because there has been a long debate on whether vitamin C may be useful in treating cancer. A new study suggests that when given intravenously it can be effective. Below are excerpts from a review article in Science News:


“Mark Levine of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda , Md. , and his colleagues had previously found that people quickly clear vitamin C from their bodies when it's taken orally, so their blood concentrations stay low. When the nutrient was delivered intravenously, however, volunteers' blood concentrations of the vitamin were up to 70 times as high as they were with oral dosing. These high blood concentrations didn't appear to have any harmful effects on the study participants.

Experiments that previously had discounted vitamin C's cancer-fighting effects had mainly involved oral doses, says Levine. To test how higher concentrations might affect cancer, his team applied vitamin C at concentrations that mimic intravenous ones to healthy human and mouse cells in lab dishes and various types of cultured cancer cells.

After incubating the cells with vitamin C for 1 hour, Levine and his colleagues found that the nutrient killed 50 percent of cancer cells in 5 of 10 cancer-cell cultures but had no effect on healthy cells. Further tests found that a chemical reaction on the outside of cancer cells converted vitamin C into hydrogen peroxide, a potent free radical that kills cells.” (Science News October 15, 2005 vol. 168 page 253) [i]


Many of my colleagues in states which license and regulate the scope of practice of naturopathic physicians use intravenous vitamin C routinely to treat cancer. Unfortunately, with the current lack of regulation we do not practice intravenous treatments in Colorado.  If we were practicing in Oregon , the state where we maintain our licenses in, intravenous vitamin administration would be within our scope of practice and be a therapy we could consider for cancer patients.


Lack of regulation limits the choices of therapy we have with our patients. We are hoping that this may change in the future.


The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) recently released their Sunrise Review of Naturopathic Physicians. You can read their entire report at:



After studying the issue for the last year and a half, DORA concluded that it is time for the Colorado legislature to pass regulations.


Or watch Channel 4's news recent report at:



If you are interested in helping support passage of these regulations you can sign up for legislative updates either on our home page:

www.DenverNaturopathic.com or on the home page of our state professional association at: www.CoANP.org .



[i] Published online before print September 12, 2005 , 10.1073/pnas.0506390102

PNAS | September 20, 2005 | vol. 102 | no. 38 | 13604-13609


Pharmacologic ascorbic acid concentrations selectively kill cancer cells: Action as a pro-drug to deliver hydrogen peroxide to tissues

Qi Chen *, , Michael Graham Espey , Murali C. Krishna , James B. Mitchell , Christopher P. Corpe *, Garry R. Buettner , Emily Shacter and Mark Levine *,

*Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892; Radiation Biology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892; Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1101; and Laboratory of Biochemistry, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892

Communicated by J. E. Rall, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda , MD , August 2, 2005 (received for review June 1, 2005 )

Human pharmacokinetics data indicate that i.v. ascorbic acid (ascorbate) in pharmacologic concentrations could have an unanticipated role in cancer treatment. Our goals here were to test whether ascorbate killed cancer cells selectively, and if so, to determine mechanisms, using clinically relevant conditions. Cell death in 10 cancer and 4 normal cell types was measured by using 1-h exposures. Normal cells were unaffected by 20 mM ascorbate, whereas 5 cancer lines had EC50 values of <4 mM, a concentration easily achievable i.v. Human lymphoma cells were studied in detail because of their sensitivity to ascorbate (EC50 of 0.5 mM) and suitability for addressing mechanisms. Extracellular but not intracellular ascorbate mediated cell death, which occurred by apoptosis and pyknosis/necrosis. Cell death was independent of metal chelators and absolutely dependent on H2O2 formation. Cell death from H2O2 added to cells was identical to that found when H2O2 was generated by ascorbate treatment. H2O2 generation was dependent on ascorbate concentration, incubation time, and the presence of 0.5-10% serum, and displayed a linear relationship with ascorbate radical formation. Although ascorbate addition to medium generated H2O2, ascorbate addition to blood generated no detectable H2O2 and only trace detectable ascorbate radical. Taken together, these data indicate that ascorbate at concentrations achieved only by i.v. administration may be a pro-drug for formation of H2O2, and that blood can be a delivery system of the pro-drug to tissues. These findings give plausibility to i.v. ascorbic acid in cancer treatment, and have unexpected implications for treatment of infections where H2O2 may be beneficial.

© 2005 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA




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