Vitamin C helps against brain tumors

Study: Combination with radiotherapy could increase chances of recovery

Ascorbic acid, the chemical name of vitamin C, in powder form © Peter Niemayer / GFDL
Read out

New Zealand scientists have found that brain tumor cells are much more susceptible to radiation when given high-dose vitamin C beforehand. The researchers are now presenting the results of their new study in the journal "Free Radical Biology and Medicine".

The scientists around Dr. Patries Herst and dr. Melanie McConnell from the University of Otago and the Wellington Wellington Malaghan Institute looked at how vitamin C in combination with radiation affects the survival of cancer cells of the malignant brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) compared to the survival of normal cells.

High doses of vitamin C supplements

They revealed that high-dose vitamin C supplements themselves cause DNA damage and cell death. The lesions were even more pronounced when the vitamin was injected shortly before the radiation.

Brain tumor patients generally have poor chances of recovery, as GBM tumors are extremely radiation-resistant. Killing brain tumor cells is easier if larger amounts of vitamin C are previously administered, says Herst.

"There was a long disagreement over the use of high-dose vitamin C in cancer treatment. The vitamin kills various cancer cells in laboratory tests and animal models. It produces aggressive free radicals in the tumor environment, but not in the environment of healthy cells, "explains Herst

Free radicals damage DNA

The free radicals damaged the DNA, which ultimately leads to cell death. However, only intravenous administrations could produce as high a concentration of radicals as would be needed to kill cancer cells.

The promising test results have not yet been tested for their reliability in clinical trials. "When carefully conducted clinical trials confirm that high-dose vitamin C in combination with radiation increases patient chances of recovery, it may be useful to combine both treatments for radiation-resistant cancers, such as glioblastoma multiforme, " says Herst.

(Australian-New Zealand University Network / Institute Ranke-Heinemann, 16.03.2012 - DLO)