From cold cure to cancer fighter

The emerging healing potential of vitamin C

If you need clear evidence that the government has no interest in real nutritional science—or in our health—look no further than vitamin C.

We’ve known for decades that vitamin C is a powerful immune booster. And it can prevent more than just colds. Science is overwhelmingly clear that vitamin C, when given intravenously, is a bona fide cancer fighter. Unfortunately, the “political scientists” in Washington. DC, are just as blind to this fact today as they were when I was working at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) 30 years ago.

As a senior investigator at NCI, at the outset of their research program on diet, nutrition, and cancer, I saw the potential for vitamin C firsthand.  And I also saw how it was blatantly ignored.

My team and I were investigating which nutrients to select for definitive testing in human cancer prevention studies. I witnessed a colleague bring the entire collection of research studies on the anticancer effects of vitamin C to our political bosses. She dropped the monumental pile on their desks—with a deafening thud. And it must have been deafening indeed, because the political bosses remained deaf to our arguments about selecting vitamin C for testing.

Instead NCI chased after then-obscure, unproven compounds such as beta-carotene. They made overnight anticancer celebrities of unqualified, ineffective nutrients—while the perfectly capable vitamin C waited in the wings.

Unfortunately, the evidence was never good for beta-carotene, as I tried to tell them. After wasting decades—not to mention hundreds of millions of tax dollars—all the NCI proved was that beta-carotene does not reduce cancer. In fact, it even increases it in some populations!

Wondering why the government would ignore the science and throw its weight behind ineffective and harmful remedies instead? As always, you can find the answer by following the money. The NCI scientific advisory board included members from the industry that makes and sells synthetic beta-carotene!

As for vitamin C, it lost out for ridiculous and political reasons. Namely, the NCI felt it had been given a “bad name” by Linus Pauling, who had brought so much attention to it.

Yes, you read that right. The fact that a two-time Nobel prize winner was such a strong and vocal advocate of the scientific truth was actually a mark against vitamin C in the eyes of the NCI.

But facts are stubborn things, and the truth will always win out. Eventually, researchers persisted and I was able to bring different lines of research together that established the effective use of vitamin C to treat cancer patients.

Unfortunately, you can’t reap the vitamin’s anticancer benefits by drinking more orange juice or popping a pill. The doses required for such intensive therapy are only achieved by continuous IV infusion of vitamin C directly into the bloodstream. In the August issue, I also shared the details of the various kinds of research studies that allowed us to determine the correct dose and rate of infusion needed to maintain effective levels in the blood.

And just in case there’s any remaining doubt, studies have shown that these levels of vitamin C in the blood are safe and well tolerated by patients. Especially when compared to toxic intravenous chemotherapy treatments.

To treat cancer, first you have to understand it

Aside from long-standing, half-baked, and oversimplified theories about “antioxidant” effects, several other studies have proven vitamin C’s numerous specific anticancer effects. It supports the immune system to stop cancer, limits the multiplication of cancer cells, and hinders the growth of blood vessels that support the growth of cancerous tumors.[i]

But the NCI is missing vitamin C’s huge potential in cancer care by taking a narrow and oversimplified view of cancer “treatment.” In their minds, if a treatment doesn’t kill cancer cells outright (a property known as “cytotoxicity”), then it’s worthless. But they’re missing all the other anticancer effects that nutrients and natural plant compounds have. That leaves us only with the worst, most toxic forms of cancer treatment. (Think chemotherapy and radiation.)

New research drives the point home

A recent study on IV vitamin C focuses on the inflammatory component of cancer.[ii] When cancer tumors are growing, there’s typically an inflammatory response in the local area. Elevated inflammation can worsen prognosis and shorten survival times in many forms of cancer.[iii]

The new study recognizes vitamin C can play a part in both preventing and treating cancer. But it has to be given at doses significantly higher than the ridiculous RDAs. These researchers treated 45 patients with lymphoma or prostate, breast, bladder, pancreatic, lung, thyroid, or skin cancers with high-dose, IV vitamin C.

In three-quarters of the patients, vitamin C treatment resulted in decreased levels of tumor markers. Which suggests that, over the long term, treatment with IV vitamin C would improve prognosis and survival rates in cancer patients. And the authors believe these effects could also benefit other inflammation-related diseases too. That finding could be huge, since inflammation may be at the root of countless diseases—ranging from asthma and sleep apnea to diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Just think of all the progress we could have made in preventing and treating cancer (and other diseases) if the NCI had bothered to listen to that initial thud of research 30 years ago. None of these new findings would be surprising. The only surprise is that it took so long and wasted so many years, taxpayer dollars, and lives to start to understand vitamin C’s full potential.


[i] “The prospects of vitamin C in cancer therapy,” Immune Netw. 2009;9(5):147-152.

[ii] “Effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C on inflammation in cancer patients,” J Transl Med. 2012;10:189.

[iii] “The Glasgow Prognostic Score, an inflammation based prognostic score, predicts survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma,” BMC Cancer. 2013;13:52.