Researchers then discovered that a highly-concentrated dose of vitamin C is "selectively" toxic to cancer cells, meaning the high dose of vitamin C harms cancer cells but not healthy tissue. Yet, when this treatment was coupled with the addition of the enzyme catalase the cancer-killing effect of the treatment was reduced significantly. This led researchers to believe that the high dose vitamin C infusion resulted in the production of large quantities of hydrogen peroxide, which initially caused a cancer killing effect that was then neutralized by the addition of the enzyme catalase. This suggested that cancer cells do not produce a sufficient amount of catalase to neutralize high levels of hydrogen peroxide on their own.
In fact, we now know that a large number of cancer cells produce small amounts of catalase in order to sustain low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. This creates the cancer friendly environment of mild oxidative stress that encourages malignant cells to grow rapidly and become more aggressive. Fortunately for everyone, because a high proportion of cancers are only able to produce small amounts of catalase, they are very vulnerable to the cancer-killing effect exhibited by high levels of hydrogen peroxide.
Dr. Mark Levine, an internationally acclaimed researcher at the National Institutes of Health, led a team of researchers to analyze the cancer-killing effect of high-dose vitamin C treatment. They discovered that after a high dose and rapid intravenous infusion of vitamin C, large concentrations of vitamin C can be reached in the extracellular space. There, vitamin C reacts spontaneously with the molecular oxygen within tumors and generates large amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which is lethal to tumor cells that produce only small amounts of catalase.
The irony here is astounding. For years, vitamin C has been recognized as one of the most powerful anti-oxidants available.How can a substance with anti-oxidant properties, produce levels of oxidative stress sufficient to kill cancer? The answer is simple. The effect of vitamin C within the body is dose dependent. In fact, there are many substances that render very different effects depending on the size of the dose. Do not forget that the difference between a venom and a cure is often in the amount. Hard to believe, but even drinking too much water can kill you.
Way back in the 1970's, the Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr. Linus Pauling collaborated with a British cancer surgeon, Ewan Cameron. They promoted the intravenous and oral administration of high-dose vitamin C treatment for terminal cancer patients. Pauling believed that anti-oxidant therapy was the way to kill cancer cells. In two published clinical trials they reported that patients significantly prolonged their lives and enjoyed an improved quality of life.
Pauling and Cameron used a megadose of 10 grams administered intravenously followed by an additional 10 grams administered orally! Many criticized him for such an irresponsible amount. In later years, C.G. Moertel conducted controlled clinical studies at the Mayo Clinic and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that he was unable to replicate the results of Pauling and Cameron.
Many considered the case for high-dose vitamin C treatment closed. Nevertheless, thirty years later, researchers from the National Institutes of Health found it necessary to reopen the case in view of recent research. Mark Levine's team concluded that C.G. Moertel's studies failed because he only administered the vitamin C orally.
The research at the National Institutes of Health has proven that in order to consistently achieve the concentration of vitamin C sufficient to provoke oxidation, a patient must receive dozens of grams of intravenous infusions of vitamin C. Oral administration is completely ineffective in this regard.10 A number of published case reports show that repeated high-dose intravenous vitamin C treatments yield objective tumor regression. These case reports are so compelling that intravenous vitamin C therapy is currently being formally evaluated in clinical trials at the NIH.
In theory, high-dose vitamin C therapy should not cause toxic damage to healthy tissue because the body produces sufficient amounts of catalase to efficiently neutralize the hydrogen peroxide produced. Our experience in the real world certainly supports the theory. We have treated hundreds of patients in this manner with no side effects. Our current protocol insures blood and tissue levels of vitamin C that are safe and effective to kill cancer cells.
Yet, a burning question still remains. Why hasn't this therapy worked for everyone? There are three variables that can undermine the effectiveness of this therapy. First, some tumors produce larger amounts of catalase which neutralizes the oxidizing effect of hydrogen peroxide. Second, sometimes there is an insufficient number of catalysts to promote the transfer of electrons. Third, sometimes there is an insufficient amount of oxygen in the extracellular space, which is needed in order for vitamin C to produce hydrogen peroxide.
For now, scientists have not found a way to selectively block the production of catalase within tumors. However, we can definitively increase the effectiveness of this therapy by providing two supporting agents—electron transfer catalysts and tumor oxygenating agents.