Vitamin C May Attack Cancer Stem Cells

Vitamin C observed to kill cancer stem-like cells.

A new study published by Oncotarget showed that vitamin C can be used to target cancer stem cells, which are responsible for tumor growth.

Cancer stem-like cells are thought to be the cause of drug resistant disease, which is known to cause recurrence and metastasis.

“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,” said researcher Michael P. Lisanti, MD, PhD. “Vitamin C is cheap, natural, non-toxic and readily available so to have it as a potential weapon in the fight against cancer would be a significant step.”

In the study, the authors examined the bioenergetics of cancer stem cells, which is the process cells use to proliferate and spread. An increased understanding of these mechanisms can provide investigators with a novel way to attack the cells.

The authors observed how 7 substances affected the energy transfer in cell lines. They tested the FDA-approved drug, stiripentol; 3 natural products, such as caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE), silibin and vitamin C; and expermential drugs, such as actinonin, FK866, and 2-DG.

The authors discovered that the natural antibiotic actinonin and FK866 were the most effective against cancer stem-like cells. The natural products all inhibited the formation of cancer stem-like cells.

However, vitamin C was 10 times as effective against the cancer cells than 2-DG, according to the study.

Previous studies have shown that vitamin C is an effective, non-toxic anti-cancer compound that is widely available. Recently, it was shown to reduce mortality by 25% in breast cancer patients.

These recent findings were the first to explore the effects of vitamin C on cancer stem-like cells. In this context, it behaves as an inhibitor of glycosis, which fuels energy production in the mitochondria, according to the study.

Since vitamin C has been observed to inhibit cancer stem-like cells, it could be used to prevent metastases and improve outcomes.

“This is further evidence that vitamin C and other non-toxic compounds may have a role to play in the fight against cancer,” said lead author Gloria Bonuccelli, PhD. “Our results indicate it is a promising agent for clinical trials, and a as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumour [sic] recurrence, further disease progression and metastasis.”