Vitamin C May Help Reduce Toxic Adverse Effects of Common Cancer Treatment


In studies of rats, results show that supplementation preserves skeletal muscle after patients take the chemotherapy medication doxorubicin.

Vitamin C may help counteract muscle atrophy that is a common adverse event (AE) of chemotherapy medication doxorubicin, according to the results of a study conducted in rats.

Although clinical trials would be needed to determine the efficacy and safety, the findings suggest that vitamin C could reduce the AEs of the drug.

“Our results suggest vitamin C as a potential adjunct therapy to assist in the management of peripheral muscle disorders after treatment with doxorubicin, thereby improving functional capacity and quality of life and reducing mortality,” Antonio Viana do Nascimento Filho, a master’s student in medicine at University Nove de Julho in Brazil, said in a statement.

Doxorubicin is an anthracycline chemotherapy drug that is often used with other types of chemotherapies to treat bladder and breast cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma, among other types of cancer. Although it is an anti-cancer drug, it has been found to potentially cause serious heart issues and muscle atrophy, affecting physical stamina and quality of life.

AEs could be the result of a form of an excessive production of oxygen reactive species in the body, or free radicals, investigators said.

Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that helps reduce oxidative stress, the type of damage caused by free radicals.

In a previous study conducted by the University of Manitoba in Canada, results showed that vitamin C improved markers of heart health and survival in rats treated with doxorubicin and also showed that it reduced inflammation and oxidative stress.

In the new study, investigators assessed whether vitamin C could similarly help prevent the AEs on skeletal muscles.

Investigators compared skeletal muscle mass and markers of oxidative stress in 4 groups of rats, with 8 to 10 animals in each group. One group received both doxorubicin and vitamin C, the second group received just vitamin C, the third group received just doxorubicin, and the fourth group received neither.

The results showed that the mice that received vitamin C along with doxorubicin showed evidence of reduced oxidative stress and better muscle mass compared with mice that were only given the drug.

“It is exciting that the vitamin C prophylactic and concurrent treatments given for just 1 week before and maintained for another 2 weeks after the use of doxorubicin was sufficient to attenuate the side effects of this drug on skeletal muscle, contributing to a hugely positive impact on the health of the studied animals,” Nascimento Filho said. “Our work demonstrated that vitamin C treatment can mitigate the loss in muscle mass and improve many markers of free radicals’ imbalance in rats subjected to doxorubicin administration.”.

Investigators noted that further research would be needed to confirm whether taking vitamin C during treatment would be helpful, as well as to determine appropriate dosage and timing.

Previous studies have also suggested that vitamin C could interfere with the effect of chemotherapy drugs, so individuals should not take these supplements unless directed by their physicians.


Vitamin C could help reduce toxic side effects of common cancer treatment. EurekAlert. News release. April 4, 2022. Accessed April 8, 2022.

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