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Lynne Eldridge MD

Vitamin C Works Against Cancer Drugs

By October 2, 2008

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You are doing everything in your power to fight your cancer. Could it be that a simple vitamin you are taking – something your mother told you was good for you – could actually make your treatment far less effective? That may be the case with Vitamin C.


On trial, is the use of vitamin C supplements taken during chemotherapy. Researchers first used a product of vitamin C on cancer cells grown in the lab that were treated with chemotherapy. In the samples treated with vitamin C, 30-70% fewer cancer cells were killed. In other words, the chemotherapy was 30-70% less effective. Next, they tested this on mice by implanting vitamin C, injecting cancer cells, and then giving them chemotherapy. The cancer cells in the mice treated with vitamin C grew into tumors much faster. Surprisingly, this happened with each cancer drug they tested.

While there has been controversy about the use of vitamin C use during chemotherapy due to its antioxidant effects, this did not appear to be the mechanism. It seemed that vitamin C worked by protecting the powerplant of cells, called the mitochondria, allowing the cells to live longer.

So what do we do with this information? There is a trend towards cancer patients using antioxidants, after a few studies found them to be beneficial. This study was not done on humans, but it does bring up a real concern that vitamin C supplements could make chemotherapy less effective. With any treatment for cancer, whether chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy it is extremely important to discuss any supplements or over-the-counter medicines you are using with your oncologist. Just as running may be healthy for some, but would not be recommended with a broken leg, vitamin C may keep healthy cells well, but interfere with chemotherapy. We don’t want to keep cancer cells healthy.

What about dietary sources of vitamin C? The lead researcher in this study, Dr. Heaney, noted that cancer patients should always eat a healthy diet; it is use of vitamin C supplements that is worrisome.


Heaney, M. et al. Vitamin C Antagonizes the Cytotoxic Effects of Antineoplastic Drugs. Cancer Research. 2008. 68:8031-8038.

October 8, 2008 at 12:04 am
(1) Daryl Saari says:

I found this information very useful, and will tell my family about this, because they are always looking for better solutions and ideas. Thank You very much, and let me know about any other ideas you can offer, by leaving a comment back to me about anything else you recommend that you can offer. Thanks!

March 28, 2009 at 11:29 pm
(2) Daryl says:

Vitamin C is great to take on a daily basis to stay in the best of health as possible, and without it it can lead to other problems later on, which can be serious. Thanks for all the great information on Vitamin C.

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