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Vitamin C may have benefits in cancer treatment - ONE News 19th July 2010

(Includes an interview with Dr Sue Levin from Helios Integrative Medical Centre) A new study by the University of Otago has found vitamin C can help curb the growth of cancer cells. The six year research, published in the in the latest edition of the Cancer Research journal, is the first real evidence of a connection between vitamin C and tumour growth. "Our results offer a promising and simple intervention to help in our fight against cancer, at the level of both prevention and cure" says Associate Professor Margreet Vissers, of the University of Otago.

The role of vitamin C in cancer treatment has been the subject of debate for years, with many anecdotal accounts of the beneficial role of vitamin C in both the prevention and treatment of cancer, she says.

Previous research by Vissers has demonstrated the vitamin's importance in maintaining cell health and hinted at its potential for limiting diseases such as cancer. This latest study looked at whether vitamin C levels were lowered in patients with endometrial tumours and investigated whether the cancer cells had low vitamin C levels and whether this correlated with tumour aggressiveness and resistance to chemotherapy. Vissers and her colleagues found tumours were less able to accumulate vitamin C compared with normal healthy tissue, and that this related to the ability of the tumour to survive and grow.

Tumours with low vitamin C levels had more of a protein called HIF-1 which allows them to thrive in conditions of stress, she says. Professor Vissers said the findings are significant as they suggest it would be beneficial for people with cancer cells to take more vitamin C to limit tumour growth. The news is no surprise to some, the Helios Integrative Medical Centre alone offers high dose intravenous vitamin C to up to 30 patients a week. Researchers say how cancer sufferers get their vitamin C should be up to their doctors, but their findings also prove a vitamin C rich diet is an anti-cancer tool. Both researchers and clinicians now want to see trials on patients and because vitamin C is not a drug, that could be fast tracked. The study was funded by the University of Otago and the Tertiary Education Commission.

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