Seven Years of RECNAC Cancer Research

By Joseph Casciari, Ph.D.

The RECNAC project marked its 7th anniversary in February with a Lunch and Lecture presentation by Dr. Hugh Riordan and the RECNAC staff at The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning International. The lecture highlighted RECNAC‘s progress in nutrition based cancer therapies and described areas of present and future RECNAC research.

Results presented … confirm the cytotoxicity of vitamin C to tumor cells.

The RECNAC project was started in 1989 with the stated goal of discovering why cancer develops and how it can be treated and prevented. Dr. James Jackson, a Wichita State University Professor who has been involved with RECNAC from its inception, described the project’s early work in testing nutritional therapies. Hundreds of vitamin and nutrient combinations were tested for their effects on cancer cells and normal cells in vitro (test tube). Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) emerged from these studies as an especially promising agent, showing preferential toxicity toward tumor cells. The vitamin is also known to benefit the immune system and to have chemo-preventive properties.

Because of these findings, RECNAC has led the way in promoting high dose intravenous vitamin C treatments for cancer patients. Dr. Riordan noted that RECNAC has had discussions with scientists at leading universities and NIH to pave the way for collaborative efforts.  Phase I clinical trials have begun at a major Midwestern medical center to rigorously establish the safety of intravenous vitamin C therapy.  Dr. Riordan presented a recent case study of a terminal cancer patient who improved dramatically as a result of such treatments.

RECNAC Laboratory Manager, Paul Taylor, described a new protocol developed by RECNAC  to test the efficacy of vitamin C therapy.  This protocol which RECNAC is making available to doctors and scientists across the United States, is based on the use of patient serum as a substrate for in vitro anti-cancer screening.  For patients undergoing vitamin C therapy, this protocol is used to determine whether given doses are sufficient for cytotoxic effect.  Results presented by Taylor confirm the cytotoxicity of vitamin C to tumor cells.

Other RECNAC scientists offered a look into future RECNAC research.  Dr. Joseph Casciari, who recently joined RECNAC after a three year stint at NIH, described in vitro tumor model based on tumor growth inside hollow fibers. These hollow fiber tumors share important traits with solid tumor in vivo (living body), including the presence of cell subpopulations resistant to conventional therapies.  Casciari hopes to use this model for further vitamin C efficacy tests and to study the role of various nutrients in tumor growth.

RECNAC‘s studies of tumor angiogenesis were also presented.  Angiogenesis is the process whereby tumors induce endothelial (blood vessel) cells to grow new capillaries in the tumor. Angiogenesis provides tumors with the nutrients necessary for growth beyond microscopic sizes. RECNAC scientists hope to find the cause of tumor angiogenesis and to learn how to prevent it, thereby starving tumors at early stage.

Dr. Xiao Long Meng, a RECNAC scientist Since 1991, described a method to study angiogenesis by measuring blood vessel growth in fertilized chick eggs.  Meng showed that growth factors  produced by tumor cells promote new vessel growth in the eggs. He also described a novel anti-cancer agent, “q2”, that inhibits angiogenesis in eggs and inhibits tumor growth. Flavonoid extracts developed at RECNAC by Dr. Yiming Li are also being studied for their effects on angiogenesis and tumor cell growth.

The lecture then shifted gears as Matt Smith, an electrical engineer who merges biology with engineering, described RECNAC‘s recent developments in electromagnetic research. Smith demonstrated the vibrating probe, an instrument he built to measure cellular conductivity. Conductivity measurements give an indication of how the electromagnetic properties of cancer cells differ from those of normal cells.

After the lecture, attendees were given a tour of the RECNAC labs. During the tour, RECNAC scientist Dr. Fei Fei Zhong demonstrated a computerized injection microscope that allows drugs to be injected directly into cancer cells. The tour ended with a visit to RECNAC‘s new Faraday cage, a room that blocks out radio signals. This room will be part of a new laboratory for electromagnetic research.

The RECNAC project is scheduled to continue until December 31,1999