Ascorbic Acid Scores Big in Iowa
In late 2018, the use of intravenous high-dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) scored a big victory when Matthew S. Alexander, MD, a surgeon at the University of Iowa Medical Center, and 15 co-authors, published two studies in the journals Radiation Research and Cancer Research.
No recent paper has excited me more than this. Forty years ago my life became intertwined with vitamin C in a most peculiar way. I was about to publish my first book, The Cancer Syndrome (renamed The Cancer Industry). I sent bound galleys of the book to many of the famous scientists in America. None of them answered.
This included Linus Pauling. Pauling was very famous. He had won an unshared Nobel Prize for Chemistry and then another solo Nobel Prize for Peace, a unique achievement. Although there was a chapter in my book about his pet project, vitamin C, I didn’t expect him to respond, after so many lesser figures had declined my request.
But then, totally unexpectedly, I got a letter in the mail.
In it, among other things, Pauling had this to say in reference to my book:
I still keep this letter on my desk.
Shortly after that, Pauling and his wife came to New York City and my wife and I went to meet them at their hotel. They couldn’t have been kinder or more considerate and we spent a pleasant hour in their company.
The next time I saw him was in England. I had been invited to speak a huge cancer meeting—the Fourth International Symposium on Cancer Prevention and Detection. It was being held in the Wembley Conference Center in the Greater London area. My wife and I had arrived early and were setting up a small table from which to sell copies of The Cancer Syndrome. Pauling’s eyes lit up when he saw us. He had a most remarkable smile and a magnetic personality.
On the way back to the States we made a detour to visit with another Nobel laureate, Albert Szent-Györgyi, MD, PhD. I had gotten a commission from a magazine to write an article about his cancer work. But Szent-Györgyi was most famous for having first isolated vitamin C and explained its role in human metabolism.
Szent-Gyorgyi was another fascinating character, whom I grew to know very well indeed. Little did I know that I would spend the next eight years tracking down the fine details of his amazing life. According to the wikipedia,
“Ralph Moss, a protégé of his in the years he performed his cancer research, wrote a biography entitled: “Free Radical: Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and the Battle over Vitamin C.”
So this accounts for my intense interest in all things vitamin C. Yet readers are sometimes surprised that until now I have been very hesitant to recommend vitamin C to patients. The reason for this is that while we strongly suspected that vitamin C fights cancer, until now there never have been any positive clinical trials with vitamin C.
Now we have these positive studies from the University of Iowa that show how Vitamin C fights cancer.
The first paper showed that intravenous vitamin C (IVC) made cancer cells more sensitive to the killing effects of radiation.
The second paper reported on an early clinical trial. To be clear, this was not a test of IVC as the primary treatment, but as something added to chemo and radiation. IVC was an adjunct to the standard treatment for locally advanced pancreatic cancer. So we still do not know how it would have done on its own, without those two toxic treatments.
In this trial, cancer patients received radiation and the standard chemo drug Gemzar (gemcitabine). But they also got a drip containing vitamin C. In such patients, there was less radiation damage to normal tissues. Bear in mind that these were very advanced patients with a dire prognosis. They were not being given any other “alternative” treatments than vitamin C. And they were receiving two other highly toxic treatments at the same time–radiation and chemotherapy. So this was not a test, nor was it a judgment of, any holistic program. Nonetheless, it does argue strongly that vitamin C contributes to the survival of cancer patients. In that sense, in this decades-long debate, the “alternative” side has been proven right and the “establishment” looks foolish…or worse.
Vitamin C Fights Cancer – Survival Gains
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit and many other plants around the world. It is also given intravenously (IV) by scores of complementary doctors. Even in huge amounts it is remarkably lacking in toxicity. But what has been lacking up till now has been proof that this could increase survival. The 16 Iowa co-authors have now shown that IVC in fact increases overall survival. In this patient group, it went from an average of 12.7 months to 21.7 months, for an absolute gain of 9 months. Put another way, it increased survival by 70%.
When IVC-added treatment was compared to results in another clinical trial, the benefit was even more, for an absolute gain of 10.6 months.
In addition, progression-free survival (PFS) was also greater, for a gain of 9.1 months compared to the average patient. A gain of 9 or 10 months may not seem like much when considered in the abstract.
But remember that, in the world of complementary medicine, IVC is almost always given as part of a comprehensive holistic treatment program. So until an entire holistic program is evaluated, and compared to another treatment, we cannot state that its effects are limited. It’s like evaluating a baseball team based solely on the performance of its third baseman.
The Iowa authors call IVC:
“…an optimal agent for improving treatment of locally advanced pancreatic [cancer].”
This is another way of saying that Vitamin C fights cancer!
An NCI Grant to study how Vitamin C fights Cancer!
Meanwhile, Iowa’s Holden Cancer Center has announced that it had received a 5-year, $9.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to test IV-C in the treatment of three kinds of cancer.
Such a thing would have been inconceivable until recently. So what has changed?
Basic research at the NIH (parent organization of the NCI) has shown that IVC functions as a “prodrug,” creating hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) at the tumor site. Although we normally think of vitamin C as an “antioxidant,” it can function as a pro-oxidant when given intravenously.
It is now universally acknowledged that in the notorious Mayo Clinic trial of the 1980s, the doctors there only gave vitamin C by mouth, and never via the much more intense and effective intravenous route. This is why they could not confirm the many positive cases presented by the two-time Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling, PhD and his medical collaborator, Ewan Cameron, MD. As NIH researchers stated in 2004:
“Only intravenous administration of vitamin C produces high plasma and urine concentrations that might have anti-tumor activity. Because efficacy of vitamin C treatment cannot be judged from clinical trials that use only oral dosing [such as the Mayo Clinic study, ed.], the role of vitamin C in cancer treatment should be reevaluated.”
But there is an amazing back story here.
The late Charles Moertel, MD, who supervised the vitamin C clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic, was known to his friends as “Dr. Debunker.” He had an extreme prejudice against all forms of alternative medicine, and its practitioners. He also supervised the ludicrously bad trial of laetrile (amygdalin or B17). His prejudice should have disqualified him from conducting a trial of vitamin C. But instead he was put in charge of it and totally screwed it up! This famous physician had to know the difference between a vitamin C pill and an infusion or the same substance, which is from 100 to 1,000 times more powerful. But he chose to give all the patients only the oral form…and then gleefully informed the world that Pauling had been proven wrong and that vitamin C was worthless in cancer.
That is why this new Iowa project is so revolutionary.
It reverses the verdict on vitamin C that was declared more than 30 years ago. It will be led by the surgeon Prof. Joseph Cullen, MD, and Prof. Douglas Spitz, PhD, of the radiation department. I have no reason to believe that these doctors are in any way prejudiced against nutritional medicine. Nevertheless, we will keep a close eye on it as it progresses.
The trial is designed “to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of adding high-dose IV vitamin C to standard cancer treatments for three of the deadliest cancers affecting the U.S. population: pancreatic cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an aggressive type of brain cancer.” According to Prof. Cullen:
“Success in this project would suggest that adding high-dose IV vitamin C to cancer treatment protocols could be a safe, simple, and cost-effective approach to improving treatment for many kinds of cancer. If the results from our early- and mid-phase clinical trials are positive, the next step would be to test this therapy in large, stage 3 clinical trials that could lead to approval of this approach and have a powerful and lasting impact on clinical cancer care in the coming years.”
High-dose intravenous vitamin C (IV-C) has now been vindicated, after more than 30 years of rejection by the cancer establishment. We eagerly await the outcome of the Iowa clinical studies. After many years, IVC is finally coming into its own!