Research ArticleCancer

High-Dose Parenteral Ascorbate Enhanced Chemosensitivity of Ovarian Cancer and Reduced Toxicity of Chemotherapy

Science Translational Medicine  05 Feb 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 222, pp. 222ra18
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007154

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Not-So-Sour Results for Cancer Patients

Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, was first proposed as a cancer treatment decades ago. Unfortunately, despite anecdotal evidence for effectiveness of intravenous ascorbate, initial clinical trials used the oral form of the drug. On the basis of the results from these trials, ascorbate was determined to be ineffective, and its use for cancer was largely abandoned outside of alternative medicine. However, accumulating anecdotal evidence once again led scientists to reconsider the therapeutic potential of this compound.

Ma and colleagues investigated the use of intravenous ascorbic acid in conjunction with chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, starting from preclinical models and culminating in a human trial. The preclinical studies provided evidence of anticancer effects of ascorbate and demonstrated synergy with chemotherapeutic agents. The early-phase human trial was too small to statistically confirm efficacy, but it demonstrated a significant reduction in chemotherapy-induced adverse effects in patients receiving ascorbate. Although larger studies will be needed to confirm a direct anticancer effect of ascorbate, its ability to decrease chemotherapy-induced adverse effects should already make it a very valuable addition to chemotherapeutic regimens, because a reduction in toxicity would allow patients to tolerate higher (and potentially more effective) doses of chemotherapy.