“VITAMIN C might give cancer treatment a boost – but it would have to be injected at high doses.
Some blood cancers, including chronic leukaemia, often involve problems in a gene called TET2. The gene usually helps ensure a type of stem cell matures properly and later dies. Suppressing it allows these cells to divide uncontrollably, leading to cancer.
Vitamin C is known to keep some kinds of cell replication in check, so Benjamin Neel at the New York University School of Medicine probed its effects in mice engineered to have low TET2 activity and a high resulting cancer risk.
They found that very high daily doses of vitamin C for 24 weeks slowed the progression of leukaemia. By the end of this period, a control group that got no injections had three times as many white blood cells – a sign of pre-leukaemia.
Neel hopes high doses of vitamin C will become part of cancer therapies, although this would involve injections rather than diet or supplements. “You can’t get the levels of it necessary to achieve the effects in this study by eating oranges,” he says.
New Scientist (2017) In Brief: Vitamin C Holds Blood Cancer Back. New Scientist. 26 August 2017.
Cimmino, L., Dolgalev, I. & Wang, Y. et al. (2017) Restoration of TET2 Function Blocks Aberrant Self-Renewal and Leukemia Progression. Cell. 170(6), pp.1079-1095. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.032.