Cancer is currently one of the top killers worldwide, and the number of cancer cases is only expected to rise. Although there are a number of therapies available, most of them are toxic and cause serious side effects. New research examines the impact of the natural vitamin C on cancer cell growth.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death and disease worldwide, accounting for almost 9 million deaths in 2015, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The global number of new cases of cancer are expected to grow by around 70 percent in the next 20 years.
In the United States, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimate that almost 40 percent of U.S. men and women will have developed cancer at one point during their lives.
There are various treatment options available for cancer, but they are not always effective; most of them are toxic, and they tend to have a variety of side effects.
In some more aggressive cases, the cancer does not respond to treatment, and it is believed that cancer stem-like cells are the reason why the cancer comes back and metastasizes.
New research, published in the journal Oncotarget, examines the effectiveness of three natural substances, three experimental drugs, and one clinical drug in stopping the growth of these cancer stem cells (CSCs.)
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Salford in Manchester in the United Kingdom, and was led by Dr. Gloria Bonuccelli.
Vitamin C up to 10 times more effective than experimental drugs
In total, the researchers measured the impact of seven substances: the clinical drug stiripentol, three experimental drugs (actinonin, FK866, and 2-DG), and three natural substances (caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE), silibinin, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).)
The research focused on the bioenergetic processes of CSCs, which enable the cells to live and multiply. The study aimed to disrupt the CSCs' metabolism and ultimately prevent their growth.
Of all the substances tested, the team found that actinonin and FK866 were the most effective. However, the natural products were also found to prevent the formation of CSCs, and vitamin C was 10 times more effective than the experimental drug 2-DG.
Additionally, the study revealed that ascorbic acid works by inhibiting glycolysis - the process by which glucose is broken down within the cell's mitochondria and turned into energy for the cell's proliferation.
Dr. Michael P. Lisanti, professor of translational medicine at the University of Salford, comments on the findings:
"We have been looking at how to target cancer stem cells with a range of natural substances including silibinin (milk thistle) and CAPE, a honey-bee derivative, but by far the most exciting are the results with vitamin C. Vitamin C is cheap, natural, nontoxic and readily available so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step."
"This is further evidence that vitamin C and other nontoxic compounds may have a role to play in the fight against cancer," says the study's lead author.
"Our results indicate it is a promising agent for clinical trials, and as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumor recurrence, further disease progression, and metastasis," Bonuccelli adds.
Vitamin C has been shown to be a potent, nontoxic, anticancer agent by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. However, to the authors' knowledge, this is the first study providing evidence that ascorbic acid can specifically target and neutralize CSCs.