Vitamin C is up to ten times more effective at
stopping cancer cell growth than pharmaceuticals
such as 2-DG, according to scientists in Salford,
The research, published in Oncotarget, is the first
evidence that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can be used
to target and kill cancer stem cells (CSCs), the
cells responsible for fuelling fatal tumours.
Dr Michael P. Lisanti, Professor of Translational
Medicine at the University of Salford, said: "We
have been looking at how to target cancer stem cells
with a range of natural substances including
silibinin (milk thistle) and CAPE, a honey-bee
derivative, but by far the most exciting are the
results with Vitamin C.
"Vitamin C is cheap, natural, non-toxic and readily
available so to have it as a potential weapon in the
fight against cancer would be a significant step."
Cancer stem-like cells are thought to be the root
cause of chemotherapy resistance, leading to
treatment failure in patients with advanced disease
and the triggers of tumour recurrence and metastasis
The Salford team set out to assess the bioenergetics
of cancer stem cells -- the processes which allow
the cells to live and thrive -- with a view to
disrupting their metabolism.
Focusing on energy-transfer, they measured the
impact on cell lines in a laboratory of 7
substances, the clinically-approved drug
stiripentol, 3 natural products -- caffeic acid
phenyl ester (CAPE), silibinin and ascorbic acid --
and experimental pharmaceuticals, such as actinonin,
FK866 and 2-DG.
While they found that natural antibiotic actinonin
and the compound FK866 were the most potent, the
natural products also inhibited CSC formation, with
Vitamin C, outperforming 2-DG by tenfold in terms of
Vitamin C has previously been shown to be effective
as a non-toxic anti-cancer agent in studies by Nobel
Prize winner Linus Pauling and was recently shown to
reduce mortality by 25% on breast cancer patients in
Japan. However, its effects on CSC activity have not
been previously evaluated and in this context, it
behaves as an inhibitor of glycolysis, which fuels
energy production in mitochondria, the "powerhouse"
of the cell.
Dr Gloria Bonuccelli, lead author and another member
of the Salford team added: "This is further evidence
that Vitamin C and other non-toxic compounds may
have a role to play in the fight against cancer.
"Our results indicate it is a promising agent for
clinical trials, and a as an add-on to more
conventional therapies, to prevent tumour
recurrence, further disease progression and
Materials provided by University of Salford. Note:
Content may be edited for style and length.
Ernestina Marianna De Francesco, Rianne de Boer,
Herbert B. Tanowitz, Michael P. Lisanti. NADH
autofluorescence, a new metabolic biomarker for
cancer stem cells: Identification of Vitamin C and
CAPE as natural products targeting “stemness”.
Oncotarget, 2015; DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.15400