The idea that vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, could be used to treat cancer was advanced in the 1970s by American scientist Linus Pauling, who awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954.
The notion was controversial and subsequent studies failed to show a benefit. But those studies involved vitamin C given orally.
The new study by researchers at the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health involved injections of vitamin C to enable greater concentrations of it to get into the system.
The researchers implanted three types of aggressive cancer cells into laboratory mice – ovarian, pancreatic and glioblastoma brain tumors. Mice that were given high-dosage injections of vitamin C experienced tumor growth only about half that of similar mice that were not given the injections, they said.
“The key finding here is that this is ascorbic acid used as a drug and it appears to have some promise in treating some cancers,” Dr. Mark Levine of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, who led the study, said.
The researchers believe the elevated amounts of ascorbic acid generate hydrogen peroxide in the body that acts against the cancer cells.
“That hydrogen peroxide leads to death of some cancer cells and does not seem to kill normal cells. Why that is, we don’t know,” said Levine, whose team’s findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr Levine said a recent clinical study in Canada in which he was involved showed that similar high doses of vitamin C can be injected into people with very minimal side effects.
“The thing that’s realistic here is that the concentrations that are effective, or similar concentrations, can be achieved in humans,” Dr Levine said.
A reasonable next step would be to begin studies testing whether this works in people, he said. “I think we’re pretty close to being ready to do that,” Dr Levine said.
Stem cells from umbilical cord blood may provide the raw material to repair the hearts of thousands of babies born each year with defective heart valves, according to data presented at the recent American Heart Association annual meeting.
Cardiologists from the University Hospital of Munich report they are about five years away from transplanting new heart valves into children with heart defects, made from the children’s own cord blood.(1)
Congenital heart defects – or problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth – are the most common type of major birth defect.(2) In children with heart valve abnormalities, the valves do not fully open or close and impede the flow of blood.(3) While surgeons can transplant new valves from donors or from artificial material, these valves won’t grow as the children do, meaning these individuals will require repeated operations to provide them with new, larger valves, said Dr. Ralf Sodian, the cardiac surgeon who led the research.(1)
Replacement heart valves made from the child’s own cord blood stem cells would theoretically grow with the child and change shape as needed, significantly reducing the number of surgeries necessary for these patients.
In this study, the cord blood stem cells were seeded onto biodegradable heart valve scaffolds and grown in the laboratory. The cells formed a tissue layer around the scaffolding and further tests showed the engineered cells formed viable heart tissue. When their ability to handle blood flow and pressure were tested, the valves created from cord blood stem cells showed capabilities similar to natural heart valves.(4)
Similar results from a pre-clinical study showed cord blood endothelial stem cells demonstrated excellent growth potential for tissue-engineered vascular grafts that could replace human heart defects.(5)
The research presented at this meeting – as well as those pre-clinical findings – offer a compelling reason why parents with a child diagnosed intrauterinely with congenital defects should consider preserving their child’s cord blood, since it may offer a treatment option in the future.