In spite of all the research being done to combat it, WHO says that cancer remains as one of the world’s worst killers (top 2 in the list), taking about 9 million lives in 2015. Even worse, it is estimated that cancer victims will increase by about 70% in the next 20 years.
Although there are a number of cancer treatment options available, they’re not always effective, and most cause unpleasant, and sometimes, toxic side effects. In some cases, treatment does not even work at all, making the patient get sicker instead of healthier. And it is widely believed that it is because of cancer stem cells (CSCs) that the disease continues to spread (technically – metastasize) and keeps coming back.
Presently, cancer therapies mostly involve the use of drugs to stop or slow down tumor growth. Soon, that may change.
In a recent study published in the journal Oncotarget, a research team at the University of Salford led by Dr. Gloria Bonuccelli has discovered that natural substances may be as effective, or maybe even more effective than drugs in fighting cancer cells. Most notably, they have validated vitamin C’s potency as an anti-cancer agent.
We say validated because vitamin C is already known for its cancer-fighting properties. Specifically, Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling has previously shown vitamin C to be a ‘potent, nontoxic, anticancer agent’. This latest study has added on more valuable information, however. It has shown that vitamin C can specifically target and neutralize CSCs.
All in all, the research team analyzed the effect of seven different substances on CSCs, particularly, their ability to disrupt the CSCs’ metabolism and keep them from growing. The substances include: a commercially available drug — stiripentol; three experimental drugs –actinonin, 2-DG and FK866; and three natural substances — ascorbic acid (vitamin C), caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE) and silibinin.
Among the substances tested, actinonin and FK866 were found to be the most effective. Surprisingly, though, even the natural substances were found to be capable of preventing CSC growth formation. Vitamin C, in particular, showed that it was 10 times more effective than 2-DG. Apparently, the vitamin can restrict glycolysis — the process of breaking down glucose and turning it into energy to power a cell.
“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 as an add-on to more conventional therapies, to prevent tumor recurrence, further disease progression, and metastasis,” said Dr. Bonuccelli.
Knowing that vitamin C (and possibly other natural substances) can indeed help fight against cancer is a pretty significant step in our ongoing battle against this deadly disease. It’s cheap, it’s widely available and it’s natural, which means you can’t have too much of it. Besides, we already know vitamin C is good for us, right? So in this case, it’s only a matter of being more diligent in terms of always including vitamin C in our diet. More oranges, anyone?