Vitamin C and Cancer: Antitumor Activity of Sodium Ascorbate Therapy

The Center had been already using intravenous Vitamin C clinically when we began our research.

Dr. Hugh Riordan’s vision of treating and preventing ailments with a non-toxic nutritional approach led him to become one of the first doctors to use IV vitamin C as a treatment protocol in patients with terminal cancers. This vision led to original research at the clinic, as well as numerous articles, patents, a series of IVC symposiums, and health initiatives.

Dr. Riordan first became aware of this therapy in the early 1980’s, when a 70-year old patient suffering from metastatic renal cell carcinoma that had spread to his liver and lungs came to the clinic requesting IV ascorbate infusions. The patient had read Pauling’s research, and Dr. Riordan was the only doctor in Wichita using IV vitamin C. Upon his request, he began IV vitamin C treatment, starting at 30 grams twice per week. Fifteen months after initial therapy, the patient’s oncologist reported that the patient had no signs of progressive cancer.  The patient remained cancer-free for 14 years.  Based on his experience, Dr. Riordan set a goal for a cancer research project devoted to finding of the non-toxic cancer treatment. The Riordan Clinic has treated hundreds of cancer patients using the Riordan protocol. At the same time, Riordan Clinic Research Institute  has been researching the potential of intravenous vitamin C therapy for over thirty years. Our efforts have included in vitro studies, animal studies, pharmacokinetic analyses, and clinical trials.

The group validated the use of the IV vitamin C for cancer therapy.  Using in vitro studies, more than 60 cell lines were tested for the toxicity to high dosages of ascorbate.  It was demonstrated that at a high enough dose ascorbate can kill cancer cells while not affecting normal cells. In addition, it was found that IVC treatment improves the quality of life of advanced cancer patients, corrects deficiencies of vitamin C that often occur in cancer patients and optimizes white blood cell concentrations of vitamin C. Analysis of the markers of inflammation in cancer patients showed that high dose intravenous ascorbic acid treatment reduces inflammation in cancer patients.

Several of these successful cases were published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.  Three of these cases were reviewed by the NIH years later, confirming the presence of cancer and the benefit of treatment.

  • Intravenously administered vitamin C as cancer therapy: three cases. Padayatty S, Riordan H, Hewitt S, Katz A, Hoffer L, Levine MCanadian Medical Association Journal, 2006, 174(7):937-942

One of our early research achievements was to demonstrate that ascorbate is preferentially toxic to cancer cells at concentrations achievable during intravenous infusions.  We also learned that cytotoxicity can be enhanced by other agents, such as lipoic acid, and magnetic fields.

  • Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent. Riordan N, Riordan H, Meng X, Li Y, Jackson JMedical Hypotheses, 1995, 44(3):207-213
  • Cytotoxicity of ascorbate, lipoic acid, and other antioxidants in hollow fibre in vitro tumours. Casciari J, Riordan N, Schmidt T, Meng X, Jackson J, Riordan H.  British Journal of Cancer, 2001, 84(11):1544-1550
  • The Effect of Alternating Magnetic Field Exposure and Vitamin C on Cancer Cells. Mikirova N, Jackson J, Casciari, Riordan H. Orthomolecular Medicine, 2001, 16(3):177-182

We demonstrated that ascorbate administration in guinea pigs reduced tumor growth rates, and that intra-tumor concentrations in the millimolar range were attained.  This information, along with data on plasma ascorbate concentrations achievable in humans intravenously, allows us to set a recommended target dose per infusion.

  • Effects of high dose ascorbate administration on L-10 tumor growth in guinea pigs. Casciari J, Riordan H et al. Puero Rico Health Sciences Journal, 2005, 24(2):145-150
  • Clinical experience with intravenous administration of ascorbic acid: achievable levels in blood for different states of inflammation and disease in cancer patients. Mikirova NA, Casciari JJ, Riordan NH and Hunninghake RE. Journal of Translational Medicine, 2013, 11:191 (Aug 2013).

In addition to the aforementioned case studies, we have published analysis of ascorbate pharmacokinetics (plasma concentration rise and fall after infusion) and a Phase I clinical study.

  • A pilot clinical study of continuous intravenous ascorbate in terminal cancer patients. Riordan H, Casciari J, Gonzalez M, Riordan N, Miranda-Massari J, Jackson J. Puero Rico Health Sciences Journal, 2005, 24(4):269-276

Work on high dose vitamin C and cancer continued with detailed studies of how vitamin C affects new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis).  Since angiogenesis is a key stage in tumor growth, its inhibition by vitamin C may provide a mechanism for anti-cancer effect.

  • Anti-angiogenic effect of high doses of ascorbic acid. Mikirova N, Ichim T, Riordan N. Journal of Translational Medicine, 2008, 6:50
  • Ascorbate inhibition of angiogenesis in aortic rings ex vivo and subcutaneous Matrigel plugs in vivo. Mikirova NA, Casciari JJ, Riordan NH. Journal of Angiogenesis Research 2010, 2:2

These, along with studies by outside collaborators, confirm the following:  therapeutic concentrations of ascorbate can be achieved intravenously; ascorbate therapy appears safe and does not adversely affect renal function; ascorbate has anti-tumor activity and ascorbate does not interfere with the action of chemotherapeutic agents.