Vitamin C in the Treatment of Cancer – A Summary
Vitamin C in the Treatment of Cancer – By Kathleen A Head, ND.
The Vale of Leven Studies: Most of the studies on vitamin C and cancer relate to its protective effect, rather than use of the vitamin for the treatment of active cancer. The Vale of Leven studies conducted by Ewan Cameron, MD and his associates, (later including Linus Pauling, PhD), at his hospital in Loch Lomondside, Scotland, are among the few exceptions. In preliminary studies which began in November 1971, a small group of patients with advanced cancer were given 10 grams of sodium ascorbate daily. The initial testing was an uncontrolled study, conducted on 50 patients. Seventeen of these patients exhibited seemingly no response, 10 a minimal response, 11 retardation of the tumor growth, 3 ceasing of the tumor growth, 5 regression of tumor growth with long-term survival, and 6 experienced hemorrhage and necrosis of the tumors, which destroyed the tumors but killed the patients in the process. An evaluation of the life expectancy of these first 50 “terminally ill” patients treated with ascorbate yielded promising results. Based on data from previous similar groups of patients, it was expected that 90 percent of the group would be dead within three months of being labeled “terminal.” When 10 g ascorbate was prescribed daily (beginning at the time the patient was labeled “terminal”), by the 100th day of treatment the mortality rate was only 50 percent. Of the remaining 25 patients, 20 died between days 110 and 659, with an average survival time of 261 days; and five had an average survival time of greater than 610 days.
Subsequently, a controlled retrospective study was conducted, comparing survival times of 100 terminally ill cancer patients at Vale of Leven Hospital with 1,000 matched controls from the same hospital. The patients were randomly selected from the database of those terminal cancer patients who had received ascorbate. Each ascorbate-treated patient was matched with 10 controls from the same hospital of the same age, sex, and type and stage of cancer who had not been prescribed vitamin C. In 90 percent of the cases, the ascorbate-treated group lived three times longer than the control group. For the other 10 percent, long-term survival made it impossible to assess survival time with certainty, but at the time of publication of the study, the ascorbate group exhibited greater than 20 times the survival rate of the control group.
Having been criticized by some investigators for not assuring the subjects were randomly chosen from the same representative subpopulations in the treated and control groups, a second retrospective evaluation at the Vale of Leven hospital was undertaken in 1978 again with 100 patients receiving ascorbic acid compared to 1,000 matched controls without vitamin C. Most of the ascorbate-treated group and about half the controls were the same subjects as in the initial study. This time, since there are different mean survival times for different types of cancer, the groups were further divided according to types of cancer, and controls carefully matched. In addition, the groups passed several “randomness” tests. In each of the nine types of cancer the ascorbate group had a considerably longer survival time than their matched controls. At the time of evaluation, eight patients in the vitamin C group were still living, while no one was alive in the control group; this resulted in 321+ days longer lifespan for the vitamin C treated group. Factoring out those in the ascorbate group who were still living at the time of evaluation, the vitamin C group lived an average of 251 days longer than the control group.
Cameron and Pauling later evaluated the first 500 “terminal” cancer patients to receive ascorbate. In most cases, subjective improvement increased feeling of well-being, more energy, more alertness, decrease or elimination of pain, better appetite were noted by the ascorbate patients. Cameron reported a quite dramatic relief of bone pain from metastases in four out of five patients. Objective improvements included a decrease in malignant ascites and pleural effusion, relief from hematuria, some reversal of hepatomegaly and jaundice, and decreases in erythrocyte SED rate and serum seromucoid levels, all accepted indicators of a decrease in malignant activity. Furthermore, patients who had been on large doses of narcotics, such as morphine, for pain relief, showed none of the typical withdrawal symptoms.
Based on the above cited studies the researchers concluded: “It is our conclusion that this simple and safe treatment, the ingestion of large amounts of vitamin C, is of definite value in the treatment of patients with advanced cancer. Although the evidence is as yet not so strong, we believe that vitamin C has even greater value for the treatment of cancer patients with the disease in earlier stages and also for the prevention of cancer.”
The Vale of Leven protocol called for a ten-day course via intravenous (IV), continuous slow-drip infusion of sodium ascorbate in half-strength Ringer’s Lactate Solution. After the IV treatment, assuming the patient was able to take medication by mouth, an oral dose of vitamin C was begun at a dose of 2.5 grams every 6 hours for a total of 10 grams in 24 hours. The dosage varied somewhat, ranging from 10-30 grams daily, and was continued indefinitely. The goal was to maintain plasma ascorbate levels of at least 3 mg/dl. The researchers reported generally a subjective improvement in well-being, vigor, pain relief, and appetite was apparent within 5-7 days. Increased energy was believed to be a result of improved carnitine synthesis with a resulting increase in triglyceride transport into cell mitochondria.
Japanese Studies: Uncontrolled trials conducted at two different hospitals in Japan during the 1970s also confirmed the increase in survival time of terminal cancer patients supplemented with ascorbate. At the Fukuoka Torikai Hospital, the average survival time after being labeled “terminal” was 43 days for 44 patients supplemented with low levels of ascorbate (less than 4 grams daily), and 246 days for 55 patients supplemented with higher dosages of ascorbate (greater than 5 grams daily – averaging 29 grams daily) and starting at the time of “terminal” diagnosis. The researchers found no differences in survival times between the groups receiving 5-9 grams daily and those receiving 10-29 grams daily. A decline in effect was noted in those receiving 30-60 grams daily. They found the best results with uterine cancer, and the smallest increases in survival time with lung and stomach cancer.
Effectiveness of ascorbate was also observed at the Kamioka Kozan Hospital where 19 terminally-ill control patients survived an average of 48 days compared to six patients on high levels of vitamin C who lived an average of 115 days, or 2.4 times longer than the control group. These researchers also reported the improved quality of life observed in the Scottish studies.
Mayo Clinic Studies: In an attempt to either duplicate or refute the Cameron and Pauling results, the Mayo Clinic initiated a test on 150 patients. Subjects were randomly divided into two groups, one group of 60 received 10 grams of ascorbic acid daily in four divided doses while the control group of 63 received an equal number of placebo capsules. After randomization, 27 patients elected not to participate and comprised a third “no treatment” group. Treatment was continued until death or until the patient was no longer able to take medication orally. The two groups were evenly balanced with regard to age, sex, tumor site, initial performance status, and previous treatment. Fifty-eight percent of those receiving placebo and 63 percent of those receiving ascorbate reported subjective improvement in symptoms during the treatment period. The researchers reported no significant difference between the vitamin C and placebo groups in regard to survival time; however, the 27 patients who received no treatment experienced a significantly lower survival time, living an average of 25 days compared to an average of 51 days for the vitamin C or placebo groups. All but nine of the 123 subjects had received prior chemotherapy, radiation, or both.