Study: Vitamin C May Improve Efficacy of Dendritic Cell-Derived Anticancer Cell Therapies


Research indicates that administering vitamin C to dendritic cells produces more consistent activation of genes involved in the immune response.

Vitamin C was found to enhance the immunogenic properties of dendritic cells, in vitro, which may lead to more effective dendritic cell-based anticancer therapies, according to a new study by the Epigenetics and Immune Disease Lab at the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute.

The researchers found that administering vitamin C to dendritic cells produces more consistent activation of genes involved in the immune response, primarily via DNA demethylation, which is investigators defined as a type of epigenetic reprogramming.

The use of many types of immune cells have been explored since the advent of anticancer cell therapies that use living cells to kill tumors. Among these therapies, treatments that use lymphocytes and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies have gained the most attention.

More recently, investigative efforts have focused on dendritic cells because of the ability of these cells to present antigens to the T-lymphocytes to generate a potent antigen-specific immune response. For the study, the research team differentiated dendritic cells from monocytes using a specific set of molecular signaling.

They separated the dendritic cells via a set of gene activation processes in the nucleus. This was primarily achieved because of the activity of the chromatin remodeling machinery led by the TET family of demethylases, which are proteins that act upon the DNA epigenetic marks.

Vitamin C has been shown to interact and enhance the activity of multiple TET proteins, however, the exact mechanism underlying the activity has not been understood in human cells. The study authors hypothesized that treating monocytes in vitro while differentiating into dendritic cells could enable the resulting cells to be more mature and active.

The results also show that adding vitamin C led to an extensive demethylation at NF-kB/p65 binding sites compared with non-treated cells, which promotes the activity of genes involved in antigen presentation and immune response activation. Vitamin C was also shown to improve communication between the resulting dendritic cells with other components of the immune system and stimulate the proliferation of antigen-specific T cells.

The study found that dendritic cells treated with vitamin C and loaded with antigens specific for the SARS-CoV-2 virus activate T cells in vitro more efficiently than non-treated cells, which illustrates the superiority of dendritic cell based-vaccines treated with vitamin C, according to the study. The study authors noted that these new data support the hypothesis that treating monocyte-derived dendritic cells with vitamin C produce vaccines with higher performance.

Future research is targeted to analyze a new generation of cell therapies based on dendritic cells, which may be used in clinical practice to more efficiently treat cancer.


Vitamin C may hold the key to improve efficacy of dendritic cell-derived anticancer cell therapies. Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute. November 2, 2022. Accessed November 3, 2022.

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