Vitamin C Impairs Tumor Cell Growth In Certain Colorectal Cancers

You've heard it time and time again: Vitamin C is the ultimate immune system booster. Whether you're heading into cold and flu season or stuck on a plane next to a sniffling seatmate, you can protect yourself against getting sick by increasing your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is also essential to the growth and repair of tissues all over the body. It plays a role in the synthesis of collagen, a protein used to make cartilage, skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It also helps repair wounds and it aids in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Essentially, the health benefits of vitamin C are endless. New research suggests that this nutrient might be even more remarkable than we previously thought.

Click here for the 10 Important Vitamins and What They Do slideshow.

We have long known that increasing your intake of Vitamin C can prevent against cancer due to its ability to prevent or delay cell damage. In a groundbreaking new study led by Dr. Lewis Cantley at Weill Cornell Medicine, researchers found that vitamin C can impair the growth of two especially aggressive types of colorectal tumors. They hope that this discovery could lead to the development of new colorectal cancer treatments. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, with approximately 93,090 new cases each year. Almost half of those cases result from the mutation of the KRAS and BRAF genes. Those cases are especially aggressive and do not respond well to chemotherapy or other treatments.

In this study, cancerous cells of mice were injected with a high-dose concentration of vitamin C, equivalent to 3,000 oranges. When vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is oxidized, it is transformed into a new compound called dehydroascorbic acid (DHA). This new study reveals that once DHA enters the cancer cells, antioxidants within the cell attempt to convert the DHA back into ascorbic acid. This process depletes the antioxidants, causing the cancerous cell to die due to oxidative stress. According to Dr. Cantley, KRAS and BRAF-mutant cells produce more reactive oxygen species than normal cells, meaning they need more antioxidants to survive. This makes them especially vulnerable to DHA.

Though we now know that this high concentration of vitamin C can impair tumorous cells, further research is needed to asses its impact on normal and immune cells. "This is not a therapy that you would want to wander into blindly without knowledge of what is going on in your tumor," Dr. Cantley admits. Nevertheless, researchers are optimistic that they have good reason to explore the therapeutic use of vitamin C to treat these tumors. They believe this therapy might also be beneficial for other difficult cancers, such as renal cell carcinoma, bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal editorial staff member Dan Myers.