Vitamin C and Cancer & Infection Therapy

Intravenous Vitamin C in Cancer and Chronic Infections

Intravenous Vitamin C in Cancer and Chronic infections

By: Paul S. Anderson, NMD

© 2016

Intravenously administered high dose ascorbic acid (HDIVC) as used in cases of patients with cancer and chronic infection has considerable mythology surrounding it. The purpose of this review is not to exhaustively recap the data regarding this therapy, but rather to address basic issues of safety, pharmacology and outcomes of ongoing research.

I have been involved in the use of HDIVC for over 20 years, and have found it to be one of the most versatile and clinically useful agents in cancer and chronic illness I have used.  It is not a panacea, but it also is not a placebo.


Paramount in the decision to include a particular therapy for any condition is the safety of that treatment.  The bottom line with respect to HDIVC is that in properly screened patients, it is an extremely safe intervention.  In a 2010 review (4) there were five reported serious adverse events in the literature.  Of these, one was hemolysis in a patient with G6PD deficiency (G6PD is an enzyme used in red blood cells to reduce hydrogen peroxide to water) and the balance were renal complications (in patients with preexisting renal disease or insufficiency). shutterstock_126288149

All patients are pre-screened for multiple conditions prior to any HDIVC, and particular attention is paid to G6PD status, renal function and other co-morbidities.  Deficient G6PD and renal insufficiency are contraindications for HDIVC.

In a review of the five cases mentioned, all could have been prevented with proper screening as recommended in current protocols.


The major concept behind HDIVC and cancer is that it is used as a pro-drug for the production of hydrogen peroxide in the extracellular space, thus potentially damaging the cancer cells (4).  Is there any evidence of this potential?  First, orally administered vitamin C is unable to create a plasma level high enough to create any substantial peroxide formation (1,5).  Second, it has been demonstrated that HDIVC properly dosed can create the type of peroxide surge in the extracellular space required to potentially damage cancer cells (5).  Finally it has been shown that some cancer cells have decreased ability to defend against the peroxide, where normal human cells can reduce the peroxide to water (1) – making HDIVC a potential anti-cancer pro-drug.

Our protocols are designed to ensure safety first. They are followed by measurement of post-HDIVC blood ascorbate levels to assure the effective peroxide forming dose for each patient.  The data deriving these protocols and the formulas are published after presentation at the Society for Integrative Oncology (13).

HDIVC and Other Chemotherapeutic Agents:

A great deal of confusing information regarding the appropriate place and timing for the administration of HDIVC with other chemotherapeutic agents exists.  Currently, an up- to-date review of all available data in this arena is being completed by the author (14).  A quote from a recent peer reviewed publication reveals the overall direction the data are pointing:  “Clinical investigation of pharmacologic ascorbate should be considered as an addition to existing cancer treatments. Its mechanism of action as a pro-drug for H2O2 generation is distinct from most currently used agents. For this reason, there is potential for synergy, or at least an additive effect, in combination with other drugs. This strategy is similar to that used for treatment of many cancers, tuberculosis, serious bacterial infections, hepatitis, and HIV. Emerging data indicate that there are additive effects of ascorbate with other neoplastic agents” (11).  A review of available data in 2008 summarized multiple existing cancer therapies and their effect in combination with ascorbate and found all agents either not affected or enhanced by ascorbate (9).  This review had one exception which was the agent bortezomib, but later clinical data showed that even this agent had synergistic effect with HDIVC (10).  More study needs to be done, but data published between late 2011 and 2012 also reveal only positive additive effects using HDIVC in combination with existing cancer treatments (7).

In the case of “chemotherapy” as applies to antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral or other medications I use HDIVC in sequence or concurrently with these agents daily.  We see only clinical synergy and improved outcomes over the use of the prescription agents alone.

HDIshutterstock_296497019VC and chronic infections:

I have used HDIVC in the context of a comprehensive functional medicine approach to chronic infections for two decades.  It is an excellent first line agent in the case of an acute illness such as influenza, mononucleosis or the like, as well as many chronic infections.  In our practice we will use it in series with intravenous artesunate or other prescription antimicrobials in cases of recalcitrant infection.  In the case of an acute infection the sooner one can infuse the HDIVC the better.  In cases of chronic infection the use of HDIVC is as part of an overall protocol, but still crucial to the management of the case.

Ongoing Research:

Published reviews of HDIVC agree that there is limited data to support or to disprove the efficacy of this intervention in cancer patients (1,3,4,5).  These authors agree that more data needs to be collected in order to verify the use of this intervention for cancer patients.  In addition to many anecdotal reports regarding the positive benefits of HDIVC in cancer situations (4), two recent presentations reported a 50% positive outcome in a small sample of stage 4 cancer patients following data over a 2.5 year timeframe (6,7).  A recent review of published data regarding intravenous ascorbic acid supports the above assertions as well as supporting the idea that this therapy has a role in treating the patient who has cancer (12).

While we have only preliminary outcomes data as yet regarding the success rate of HDIVC, it is viewed as a safe and potentially effective treatment in a medically supervised environment from the point of view of the larger medical community.  In my personal experience it is one of the most safe and effective agents to use in the course of treatment of infections as well as an excellent quality of life agent in clinical oncology.


  1. Verrax J and Calderon PB. The controversial place of vitamin C in cancer treatment biochemical pharmacology. 76 (2008 ) 1644 – 1652. PMID: 18938145.
  2. Duconge J, MirandaI-Massari JR, and Gonzalez MJ, et al. Pharmacokinetics of Vitamin C. PRHSJ 2008;27(1):7-19. PMID: 18450228.
  3. Ohno S, Ohno Y, and Suzuki N, et. al. High-dose Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) Therapy in the Treatment of Patients with Advanced Cancer. Anticancer Research 2009;29: 809-816. PMID: 19414313.
  4. Padayatty SJ, Sun AY, and Chen Q, et al. (2010) Vitamin C: Intravenous Use by Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners and Adverse Effects. PLoS ONE 5(7): e11414:1-8. PMID: 20628650.
  5. Chen Q, Espey, MG, and Sun AY, et al. Ascorbate in pharmacologic concentrations selectively generates ascorbate radical and hydrogen peroxide in extracellular fluid in vivo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007; 104(21):8749-54. PMID: 17502596.
  6. Standish L, Anderson P. “IV Therapy Experience at Bastyr Integrative Oncology Research Center.” Scientific Presentation. NOAC Meeting. Seattle, Washington. 2010.
  7. Anderson P. “Intravenous Vitamin C in Naturopathic Oncology.” Scientific Presentation. Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Scottsdale, Arizona. 2012.
  8. Fromberg, A, Ascorbate Exerts anti-proliferative effects through cell cycle inhibition and sensitizes tumor cells towards cytostatic drugs. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol, 67:1157-1166, 2011. DOI 10.1007/s00280-010-1418-6 (Springer online).
  9. Verrax J and Calderon PB. The controversial place of vitamin C in cancer treatment biochemical pharmacology. 76 (2008 ) 1644 – 1652. PMID: 18938145.
  10. Berenson JR, Yellin O, Woytowitz D, Flam MS, Cartmell A, Patel R, Duvivier H, Nassir Y, Eades B, et al. Bortezomib, ascorbic acid and melphalan (BAM) therapy for patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma: an effective and well-tolerated frontline regimen. Eur J Haematol. 2009;82:433–9. Downloaded from by guest on November 15, 2011
  11. Levine M, Vitamin C: A Concentration-Function Approach Yields Pharmacology and Therapeutic Discoveries. Advanced Nutrition. 2: 78–88, 2011. doi:10.3945/an.110.000109
  12. Fritz H, Intravenous Vitamin C and Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integr Cancer Ther May 26, 2014.Published online before print May 26, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1534735414534463

An Interview with Dr. Ron Hunninghake
By  Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.

Recent columns have focused on new research into the many health benefits of vitamin C. We have discussed both “nutritional” requirements for people in good health and “supranutritional” requirements of others who are fighting health issues beyond scurvy. A common thread in the columns is that the amount of vitamin C in the blood is the key to vitamin C’s effectiveness. Sometimes, the most convenient way to obtain adequate blood levels of vitamin C is to use intravenous vitamin C (IVC). Reports of IVC’s effectiveness against some cancers are now appearing regularly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In July 2017, a study on IVC against prostate cancer was published that should interest additional physicians. We will discuss these findings in the next two columns. Let’s start with Dr. Ron Hunninghake, M.D., medical director of the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, KS.

Passwater: Good to chat with you again. Long-time readers may remember the last time we discussed your research back in 2007. You have been very busy in the meantime, as your health research and clinical results are becoming of greater interest to health professionals everywhere. You continue to be the chief medical officer at the Riordan Clinic, in Wichita, KS. Please tell our readers a little about the famous Riordan Clinic.

Hunninghake: The Riordan Clinic is one of the largest non-profit, nutritional medicine centers in the United States. It was founded in 1975 by the late Hugh Riordan, M.D., a pioneer in nutritional medicine. We have a staff of about 40 people, including six full-time practitioners in addition to researchers and nurses. We have an analytical laboratory on-site for measuring vitamin and mineral levels, as well as conventional medical tests. The physical structure of the clinic is also distinctive; it consists of eight geodesic domes and a pyramid. All of this is on a 90-acre nature preserve. Readers can find out more about the clinic at
I’m board certified in holistic medicine, and I’ve been practicing nutritional medicine at the Center for almost 30 years.

Passwater: Dr. Ron, what piqued your interest in vitamin C?

Hunninghake: I was fortunate to be mentored for over 15 years by Dr. Hugh Riordan. In the early ‘90s, Dr. Riordan picked up the fallen research flag of Dr. Ewan Cameron, a Scottish physician, and Dr. Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize laureate. Dr. Cameron completed, and Dr. Pauling defended, clinical research utilizing high dose vitamin C for cancer. Cameron’s and Pauling’s efforts to demonstrate the cancer treatment benefits of vitamin C were thwarted by the Mayo Clinic’s incorrect attempt to replicate its exciting findings. The oncological community gave the nod to the more prestigious Mayo Clinic, and further efforts to investigate vitamin C were stymied … until Dr. Riordan came along.

Passwater: Sounds like a tragedy similar to what happened to the late Dr. Fred Klenner’s clinical findings.

Hunninghake: It was amazing for me to learn that Dr. Klenner, a respected graduate of Duke Medical School, had published a research series in the Journal of the   American Medical Association (JAMA), where he reported curing 60 out of 60 cases of polio in the late 40s. He also presented his paper at an AMA meeting. The astonishing response: zilch, zero, no interest!

Passwater: I have always been very upset that his findings weren’t widely disseminated. I personally lived through the fear of the great polio epidemic when we were discouraged from congregating in large numbers or using public swimming pools for fear of polio. We could barely build enough iron lungs to handle the devastating consequences of this horrible epidemic, yet a 100% cure was ignored!

There is still almost total ignorance of the work of Dr. Klenner and others with vitamin C against viral diseases and cancer.

Hunninghake: One encouraging statistic I’ve heard is that more people now have vitamin C in their medicine cabinets than aspirin. Even so, both the public and the medical profession are largely ignorant about vitamin C as an anti-microbial and detoxification agent. Dr. Thomas Levy has written a wonderful book, Vitamin C, Infectious Disease, and Toxins. He makes the very important point that DOSAGE is the key to vitamin C’s effectiveness. Everyone is different; each illness is different; severity is a factor; the individual’s diet, lifestyle, sleeping habits, smoking habits, concurrent meds, and overlapping diseases all make a difference in dosing! Most cases of vitamin C “failure” are due to improper, inadequate dosing. Sometimes, intravenous C is necessary to achieve the effective dosage threshold.

Passwater: Are these amazing medical benefits of vitamin C taught in medical schools?

Hunninghake: I had three hours of nutrition in medical school. No, not three semester hours … a total of three hours one afternoon! We discussed beriberi, scurvy, rickets and several other single nutrient deficiency illnesses … then the instructor said not to worry about them because they so rarely occur here in America. The idea of sub-clinical deficiencies or multiple overlapping low-grade deficiencies was never presented.

Passwater: What natural evidence do we have to substantiate the concept that vitamin C at higher than RDA doses might help to treat serious illness?

Hunninghake: Let me answer your question by starting with how much vitamin C animals need and make. First, let’s consider the human animal — us! Humans don’t make our own vitamin C, so we will use the RDA for humans (90 mg/d) and scale it to an average human’s body mass which equals 1 mg/kg/d. Dogs do synthesize vitamin C, but in an amount equaling 3 mg/kg/d. That would be equivalent to about 200 mg/d for a human. Pigs also synthesize vitamin C at 8 mg/kg/d which is equivalent to about 500 mg/d for a human. Goats are amazing. Unstressed goats can make up to 190 mg/kg/d. You and I would need to take 14 one-gram vitamin C tablets to equal that. Then, unbelievably, an injured goat can synthesize a whopping 1300 mg/kg/d! That’s 100,000 mg a day for a human: a whole bottle of vitamin C tablets!

Passwater: Other primates are especially closely related to man. Do non-human primates consume the minimum C necessary to get by?

Hunninghake: Like humans, other primates do not make vitamin C. They lack the ability to express the genome that makes a liver enzyme called GLO (L-gulonolactone oxidase). GLO converts glucose into vitamin C. So, how much do they get in their diet? Spider monkeys get about 100 mg/kg/d. That would be 7,000 mg a day for a human. Gorillas consume 30 mg/kg/d. That’s about 2 grams, which is far above the measly 60 mg the RDA experts would suggest humans consume to prevent scurvy.

There’s a great quotation from Dr. Levy’s book that touches on this point: “This automatic ability to adequately step up vitamin C production in the face of stress explains why so many wild animals tend to live healthy for their entire life spans … and, conversely, generally, vitamin C-depleted human beings will typically spend at least half of their lifetimes coping with one or more chronic diseases.”

Passwater: What is the optimum dose of vitamin C for humans?

Hunninghake: Dr. Linus Pauling estimated that two grams a day would go a long way towards preventing the common cold in the majority of people. But that’s just a guess. Dr. James Jackson, the former head of The Bio-Center Lab at the Riordan Clinic, has developed an innovative way for each person to take into consideration all the many variables that can affect their vitamin C needed for the day. It’s called VitaCheck C strips. These are very similar to urinalysis test strips, with a small chemical pad at the end of a plastic strip. You wave the test pad through your urine stream and the color change corresponds to the vitamin C concentration in your urine at that moment. If it’s low, you need to increase your intake. Your need can vary greatly depending on your diet, your stress load, whether you smoke, how well you slept the night before, and whether you are fighting a cold or some other oxidant-producing illness.

Passwater: Vitamin C doesn’t seem to fit the standard definition of a vitamin does it?

Hunninghake: It depends on how you define “vitamin.” If you mean “a substance that must be provided by food or supplementation” then, yes, it definitely is a vitamin. If you take the medical definition that a vitamin is “a general term for a number of unrelated organic substances that occur in many foods in small amounts and that are necessary in trace amounts for the normal metabolic functioning of the body,” then vitamin C may not be a classic vitamin, because in large amounts it helps living organisms adapt better to stress, trauma, and/or illness. I believe we should stop referring to it as vitamin C. We should start calling it “adaptogen C.”

Passwater: Others have made strong cases for vitamin C being more than a vitamin. Even Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who was awarded the 1937 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering vitamin C, saw ascorbic acid as being more than “anti-scorbutic.”

Hunninghake: Yes, Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi saw vitamin C as “The Electron Exchanger.” In his words, vitamin C is, “… one of the primary substances assuring that a vigorous, continuing electron exchange takes place among the body’s tissues and molecules. One definition of life, then, is that it is a state in which an optimal degree of electron interchange among cells can take place.” This corresponds to what could be simply defined as three states of vitamin C intake: minimum (like the RDA); average (like the primates in the wild); and optimal (like the goats who can really go to town making huge amounts of adaptogen C when they really need it).

Passwater: The Center was founded by Dr. Hugh Riordan and you worked alongside him for a good while. What drew Dr. Riordan to IV vitamin C?

Hunninghake: Well, he was very aware of Dr. Klenner’s findings. But, there was a defining experience in his life that really captured his scientific attention: In 1975 Dr. Riordan was bitten by what he believed was a Recluse spider. When he checked his plasma vitamin C level – zero! “I’ll fix that,” he thought. He got one of the Center nurses to give him 15,000 mg of ascorbic acid IV. He rechecked his C level: still, zero! Only after several IVCs did he resolve his temporary state of scurvy … some 50,000 mg of vitamin C later! A perfect illustration of the fact that the dosage of vitamin C an individual needs at any given time is totally dependent on several variables that impact their oxidative stress load … like a Recluse spider bite.

Passwater: Where did this lead him?

Hunninghake: Real estate agents have a pet saying: location, location, location! Dr. Riordan’s was: measure, measure, measure! After the spider incident he began to routinely measure plasma vitamin C levels on all chronically ill patients coming to The Center. You can almost guess what he found: sickness and low plasma C go hand in hand. And in cancer patients, he found very low vitamin C reserves! When he checked the literature, he found that a low vitamin C status was a consistent finding in cancer studies where the researchers bothered to check plasma vitamin C levels.

Passwater: Why do cancer patients have such low vitamin C levels?

Hunninghake: The membranes of cancer cells contain large numbers of glucose transporters that seek glucose. Thus, cancer cells remove vitamin C from the blood by mistake in cancer’s efforts to take in more glucose needed for fuel for its energy.

Passwater: Please explain further.

Hunninghake: The vast majority of living creatures make the vitamin C they need from blood sugar. As chronically injured cells sustain damage to their DNA, oxidative stress builds up. This increases their tendency to divide. Over time, if the damage is progressive and irreversible, the cells will lose their control mechanisms and begin to function more like single-celled organisms rather than cells that are part of a multi-cellular organism. This is the shift towards cancer, and cancer cells are anaerobic obligates … their metabolic pathways require glucose.

Passwater: OK. So, getting nutrients into the bloodstream is only part of the story. The nutrients must also get into the cells to do their jobs. There are transporting proteins embedded in cell membranes to carry specific nutrients into the cell interiors where they can do their work. Human cells produce glucose transporters, primarily various members of a “family” called GLUTs, depending on the cell. Vitamin C can enter cells directly and passively via diffusion, but vitamin C can also be actively transported into cells via GLUT, but more so via Sodium-Ascorbate Co-Transporters (SVCTs).

The size, structure and electronic charges on the perimeter of vitamin C molecules so closely mimic those of glucose molecules that the glucose receptors undergo conformational changes that facilitate vitamin C entry into the cells. Please see Figure 1.

Figure 1. Similarity between the chemical structure of glucose (blood sugar) and vitamin C (ascorbate ion) can result in cancer cells taking in vitamin C in their quest for glucose, which is vital to cancer cells. The chemical structure on the left is that of glucose and on the right is the chemical structure of vitamin C as ascorbic acid. Both molecules are small, about the same molecular weight, have an oxygen atom as part of the ring structure, have similar electronic charges around the ring (4 vs 5 hydroxyl (OH) radicals). Each molecule has six carbon atoms and six oxygen atoms. A difference is that the glucose molecule has a double bond in the ring and four more hydrogen atoms. The molecular formula for glucose is C6H12O6 and the molecular formula for vitamin C is C6H8O6. The molecular weight for glucose is 180 and for vitamin C it is 176 molar mass.

Most cancer cells have large numbers of glucose transporters because glucose is critical to cancer growth. So, the glucose transporters in the membranes of cancer cells, in their effort to bring more needed glucose into the cancer cells, mistakenly bring in vitamin C instead. Thus, vitamin C starts accumulating in cancer cells. What does this do?

Hunninghake: Recent research from the National Institutes of Health confirmed our Center’s findings from the early ‘90s: at very high dosages, vitamin C interacts with copper and iron to form the powerful hydroxyl radical. This free radical has a strong oxidative effect on cancer cells, which lack the protective enzyme catalase. Once the threshold dose of vitamin C was attained in cell culture, all types of cancer cells were selectively killed. Healthy, non-cancerous cells were spared … partly because of their much higher levels of catalase, and partly because they do not have near the same number of glucose (and vitamin C) transporters in their membranes as cancer cells.

Passwater: So high-dose vitamin C is cytotoxic to cancer cells, but cell-protective to non-cancerous cells? Amazing! How does the vitamin C kill the cancer cells?

Hunninghake: The same way chemotherapy and radiation do: severe oxidation. When cellular oxidative damage is severe enough, a special gene, called the p53 tumor suppressor gene, triggers apoptosis. Apoptosis is “programmed cell death.” In a multicellular organism, when cells are damaged beyond repair or worn out, the p53 mechanism simply causes the cell to self-destruct, for the greater good of the whole organism. In cancer cells, the p53 DNA of a healthy cell has been damaged and the cell has mutated. Cancer cells act like “selfish” single-celled organisms whose only intent is self-replication and survival … even if it means the death of the host organism.

Passwater: In 2017, you published the exciting results of the Riordan’s Clinic with IV vitamin C against prostate cancer. The published report concludes that your study “demonstrated the clinical benefit of IV vitamin C for prostate cancer patients“ (1). It is a seminal study that should open a lot of eyes. All physicians and cancer patients should know about it. The results are very important and encouraging for cancer patients. Your co-researcher in the study is Dr. Nina Mikirova of the Riordan Clinic. Let’s chat with Dr. Mikirova about this study next month. Dr. Hunninghake, thank you for discussing the basics of IVC against cancer with us and for your decades of research.

1. Mikirova, N. and Hunninghake, R. “Changes in the rate of PSA progression and the level of alkaline phosphatase during high dose vitamin C treatment of patients with prostate cancer.” Functional Foods in Health and Disease 2017; 7(7) 511-528.

NOTE: The statements presented in this article should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before adding a dietary supplement to (or removing one from) your daily regimen. The opinions expressed in bylined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2018

I: 10.19080/CTOIJ.2017.03.555623

Canc Therapy & Oncol Int JCopyright © All rights are reserved by Dr. Michael J Gonzalez


Bioenergetics of Human Cancer Cells and Normal Cells During Proliferation and Differentiation

Nina A. Mikirova1, Joseph J. Casciari1, *Michael J. Gonzalez2, Jorge R. Miranda-Massari3, Neil H. Riordan1 and Jorge Duconge3

Cancer cells are known to have different metabolic properties than normal cells, particularly their tendency to undergo glycolysis even under aerobic favoring conditions. This has created interest in how mitochondrial function in tumor cells may differ from that in normal cells.Using human malignant cells (SW-620, PC-3, HT-1080, SK-MEL, HL-60, K-562 and MOLT-3), human fibroblast (CCL-153) and human T Cells, weinvestigated three key parameters that have been typically used to describe mitochondrial function: cellular ATP production, mitochondrial potential and cellular cardiolipin levels. On average, tumor cancer cells had more ATP production and greater mitochondrial potentials. For example, ATP levels in malignant cells ranged from 20 to 69 μmole/106 cells, with a cancer cell average of 40 ± 18 μmole/106 cells. For normal cells, the ATP level range went from 9 to 24 μmole/106 cells, for an average of 15 ± 11 μmole/106 cells. Mitochondrial potentials tended to be three times higher in cancer cells, perhaps because overall mitochondrial mass (as measured by relative cardiolipin levels) were twice as high in cancer cells. Higher mitochondrial masses are consistent with proliferation. Proliferating cells in general showed higher mitochondrialfunction compared to quiescent cells (confluent monolayers), and HL-60 cells showed reductions in all three mitochondrial parametersmeasured here when the cells were exposed to the differentiating agent TPA. The effects of ATP production inhibitors CCCP and oligomycin on mitochondrial function in normal and cancer cells were also compared. In general, in these experiments, cancer cell mitochondrial inhibition with these agents produced a decrease ATP levels by 30-40% while in normal cells ATP production was reduced by 60%. These results provide evidence of a mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer cells. Cancer cells appear to better withstand interference with ATP synthesis in mitochondria since they rely mainly on glycolysis as an energy producing mechanism.


1Riordan Clinic, 3100 Hillside Ave, Wichita, Kansas 67219, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, RECNAC2School of Public Health, San Juan P.R
3School of Pharmacy, GPO Box 365067San Juan PR 00936-5067
Submission: February 24, 2017; Published: March 22, 2017

*Correspondence Address: Dr. Michael J Gonzalez, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, school of Public Health, Department of Human Development, Nutrition Program, GPO Box 365067, San Juan P.R 00936-5067, Tel: x 1405; 787-649-2737; Email:



Vitamin C and Cancer

By: Jennifer Mead, ND and William Wassell, MD

shutterstock_333601613The Riordan Clinic is probably most famous for Dr. Riordan’s interest in furthering research on Linus Pauling’s original hypotheses that Vitamin C could be a potential cure for heart disease, chronic infections and even cancer.  His hypothesis was first developed some time in the 1950s and nearly 70 years later, it is still alive and well.  Researchers all over the world, including several prestigious universities here in the states (John Hopkins, UNC Chapel Hill) are still very intrigued by Vitamin C and the promising results shown in vitro and animal studies.  Case reports are coming in from all over the world of how IVC is curing many diseases considered by mainstream medicine to be incurable. Over 2 decades have passed since Linus Pauling’s death in 1994 and with each decade the attention on Vitamin C has exponentially increased.  This fact alone could be evidence of the importance of Vitamin C in and of itself as Max Planck has said, “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”  If he is correct then by 2050 Vitamin C will have on its own merits, proved its worth to the public, and will be accepted by corporate medicine. Please note that this will not do you or I any good.

70 years of research on Vitamin C show it to be much more than the “anti-scurvy factor”. It is the master controller of electron distribution and flow in our bodies. It is needed in over 10,000 biochemical reactions. It is a major antioxidant in the body, the immune system is practically useless without it, and the list goes on and on. The truth is that Vitamin C is causing a paradigm shift in science and medicine in the way it views the cause of disease and inflammation in the body. When any agent produces oxidative stress in a tissue, inflammation will result if insufficient antioxidants are not present to keep the tissues re-dox potential balanced.  We should point out that it was not too many years before the discovery of Vitamin C that Linus Pauling had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the nature of the chemical bond. It is this sharing of electrons between two different atoms in a covalent bond that plays such an important place in health. You have to think on the biochemical level now because that is where all war is waged in the human body—the enemy is oxidation and the defense is reduction. This war begins at conception and ends at death with oxidation always being the winner. We are in good health when this oxidation/reduction is kept in balance. Knowing this, we should see how important Vitamin C is since it is the body’s major antioxidant.

The most important thing to know about Vitamin C is that it is produced from glucose (sugar) in the liver by all animals except for humans, a few of the large erect primates, a fruit eating bat, the guinea pig, and a few primitive birds. For these exceptions, diet is their only source of Vitamin C, and it only becomes a problem when the food source lacks adequate Vitamin C. Cancer cells derive energy by fermenting glucose. Glucose and Vitamin C (being nearly identical molecules in size and shape) use the same ports to enter a cell. Cancer cells need more glucose than normal cells to get the same amount of energy because they only have fermentation as a metabolic process which is inefficient producing only about 10% of the energy; the same amount of glucose would run through Krebs Cycle utilizing oxygen. This increased utilization of glucose produces heat and can be detected and displayed by the infrared cameras. Mainstream medicine however choses to use a much more expensive and profitable way to view this activity by attaching a radioactive element to glucose and then looking for hot spots with a gamma camera. The radiation is called a gamma ray but is identical to an x-ray of the same energy level. A gamma camera is used to find areas of increased activity which is what cancer shows. The same information can be obtained with less expense and no radiation exposure by giving normal glucose and then scanning the body with an Infrared camera.

So, what does that have to do with Vitamin C being used as a therapeutic agent? 

As stated, cancer can only use glucose (sugar) for fuel and because Vitamin C is nearly identical to glucose; cancer soaks up Vitamin C as quickly as it does glucose. Cancer can metabolize the glucose for enershutterstock_143749843gy, but cancer cannot metabolize high amounts of Vitamin C properly. Cancer and many infections are found to have unusually high concentrations of iron and other metals.  The interaction of the Vitamin C and the metals is where the therapeutic response begins.  Much of this iron in cancer cells is in the +3 oxidation state and when reduced to +2 state by Vitamin C donating an electron a reaction is triggered that results in production of hydrogen peroxide and other reactive oxygen species. In high concentrations, the hydrogen peroxide will damage the DNA and mitochondria by raising free radicals and also inactivates an enzyme needed to metabolize glucose, therefore depriving the cancer cells of energy and creating cell lysis or cell death.  Vitamin C also accomplishes a few other tasks: helps increase collagen to help wall off tumors, inhibits hyaluronidase (an enzyme tumors use to metastasize), and can help induce apoptosis or programmed cell death, a metabolic process that is lost with cancer.  It’s unfortunate, but the gene that triggers cell suicide “apoptosis” does not work with cancer cells because the large amounts of oxidants required to destroy the cell depends on the cell being able to generate large amounts of ATP (energy) which it cannot do with cytoplasmic fermentation (sugar breakdown without oxygen) alone. The good news is that no matter how high the concentration, Vitamin C does not harm healthy cells.

The key phrase just mentioned twice is “High Concentrations”. You have to get the blood level of Vitamin C high enough; which can only be done via Intravenous injection or injections directly into the cell.  Our bodies tightly control intestinal absorption, so oral Vitamin C use will not create this “pro-oxidant” effect on cancer.  All of the studies that have completely debunked Linus Pauling’s theory were utilizing oral Vitamin C (what a waste of time and money!). As an example: If you take 25 grams of Vitamin C in one day, assuming your intestines can handle that much, you may get your blood level to six mg/dl.  In order to create cell lysis of cancer, research has shown the blood level needs to reach between 350-450 mg/dl; nearly 65 times as high as can be reached orally!  This is why in the beginning when we are trying to find a patient’s IVC dose we run a blood level after the IV to make sure it reaches between 350-450 mg/dl.  Once we get the results of these post IV Vitamin C levels we decide on the proper dose and frequency.

Can Vitamin C be performed in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation?  At the proper dosage, Vitamin C will not negatively affect the work your oncologist is trying to perform with chemotherapeutics and radiation.  In actuality, there are many studies now that have shown  IV Vitamin C can help enhance the oxidant effects of chemotherapy by helping drive the chemo into the cancer cells more effectively.  Studies have shown that Vitamin C IVs can also decrease pain from cancer, help patients better tolerate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and help decrease the toxicity of conventional cancer therapies.

Most cancer treatments have many side effects, but you say Vitamin C has none?  IV Vitamin C has virtually no major side effects.  We do however have to watch kiIVdney function closely as one must be able to filter fluids properly and those in congestive heart failure and others retaining fluids are monitored more closely, sometimes but not often patients may be instructed to avoid the therapy all together.  The main side effects include all of those which can occur with any IV therapy, such as irritation at the injection site, etc.  Sometimes patients will feel sensations in the areas of the tumors and occasionally experience reactions of detoxification such as dermatitis.  The IV Vitamin C is very hyperosmotic so at high doses most people experience what we call an “alarming thirst” which resolves as soon as the IV finishes.  And since Vitamin C looks like sugar, it can cause an insulin rush and blood sugar to be brought into cells, a bit of low blood sugar may be experienced –  hunger and mild lightheadedness could occur, however, coming well fed and having food on hand will prevent this occurrence.  We have to warn diabetics that the Vitamin C will interfere with their glucometer reading as the glucometer cannot even tell the difference between the sugar and Vitamin C; so caution has to be used with insulin dosing.  We also warn patients never to have blood drawn within 24 hours of an IV, as it can produce false results.

Sounds too good to be true… are there any drawbacks?  First, remember that at any given time only 1/3 of cancer cells are metabolically active; therefore the ones that are inactive will not absorb the Vitamin C and the same goes for chemotherapy and radiation.  This is why there are always series of treatments, in order to hopefully catch all the cells in their metabolically active phase. Therefore, one drawback is that patients will have to come into a clinic for Vitamin C infusions, ideally every few days for months and even years, often much longer than conventional therapies, because Vitamin C seems to take that long to kill cancer cells.  And with few clinics in the United States utilizing intravenous Vitamin C, it is very difficult for people to continue the therapy.   But this drawback could be an easy fix.  Again, as Mr. Planck said, we will not triumph by convincing the opponents, but rather by educating the people so that the next generation will be familiar and take the original research and progress it until scientific truth has been achieved.  I learned in grade school that “a picture is worth a thousand words” – and what better way to educate the people than pictures!  The average person knows nothing about cancer markers and cytokines so reading research does not appeal to them, but everyone loves pictures! It has been our idea to gather case studies of utilizing Vitamin C with skin cancers and documenting with pictures.  These pictures will get the attention of not only the scientific community but also “the people” – and who knows, in 10-15 years maybe every small town will have an infusion center so IV Vitamin C can be something we can all get on our lunch hour.  It could happen and we can certainly have a dream too!  Nothing will progress without an imagination and as Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” especially when it comes to real innovation.

PRESS RELEASE: High-Dose Vitamin C Reduces Inflammation in Cancer Patients Study Shows


Editors note:  The following press release was sent out in September regarding this recent important research finding by our research team, led by Dr. Nina Mikirova, Director of Research.

High-Dose Vitamin C Reduces Inflammation in Cancer Patients Study Shows

Inflammatory responses play roles at different stages of tumor development, including initiation, promotion, malignant conversion, invasion, and metastasis. The ‘inflammation– cancer’ connection is not restricted to increased risk for a subset of tumors. An inflammatory component is present in the microenvironment of most neoplastic tissues.

High inflammatory levels appear to indicate increased cancer risk and poorer prognosis. Inflammation also decreases quality of life, impairs immune functions, plays a central role in cancer cachexia, and lowers toleration of some anti-cancer therapies.

The existing level of inflammation may predict survival time for many cancers. People with the lowest levels of inflammation were twice as likely to live through the next several years.

This study analyzed the effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C (IVC) treatment on inflammation in cancer patients.

“To our knowledge, there are no studies that demonstrated effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C on inflammation in cancer patients,” states Dr. Nina Mikirova, Director of Research at the Riordan Clinic.

Over the course of 35 years, the Riordan Clinic has administered mega dosage IVC to cancer patients, as vitamin C has been suggested as having both a preventative and therapeutic role in a number of pathologies when administered at much higher-than-recommended dietary allowance levels. The data analysis was done for patients with prostate cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, skin cancer and B-cell lymphoma treated at the Riordan Clinic by high doses of vitamin C (7.5g -50g) after standard treatments by conventional methods.

Markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein and pro-inflammatory cytokines) and tumor markers were measured during treatment.  According to the data, positive response to treatment was found in 75% of patients and progression of the inflammation in 25% of patients.  There was correlation between tumor markers (PSA, CEA, CA27.29 and CA15-3) and changes in the levels of inflammation.

The test of the effect of IVC on pro-inflammatory cytokines demonstrated that inflammation cytokines IL-1α, IL-2, IL-8, TNF-α, and chemokine eotaxin were reduced significantly after treatments.

Ultimately, the study found that the high dose intravenous ascorbic acid therapy affects inflammation levels and pro-inflammatiory cytokines in cancer patients, and the modulation of inflammation by IVC correlated with decreases in tumor marker levels, thus reducing the ability of cancers to grow and metastasize.

This research, conducted by Riordan Clinic scientists Dr. Nina Mikirova, Dr. Joseph Casciari, Andrea Rogers and Paul Taylor, has recently been published in the Journal of Translational Medicine in an article entitled, “Effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C on inflammation in cancer patients.”


To read this and other articles written by Riordan Clinic researchers, go to, or view the article on the Journal’s website at

IVC and the Riordan Approach to Adjunctive Cancer Care: 7 Key Questions

 By Dr. Ron Hunninghake

For more information, we advise you to go to and search for “Riordan Clinic” to watch Dr. Ron Hunninghake’s presentation:  IVC and Cancer Care

  1. What is IVC and how does it benefit cancer patients?

Intravenous vitamin C (IVC) is an adjunctive cancer therapy, widely used in naturopathic and integrative oncology settings. Two decades of grounding-breaking research on IVC therapy at the Riordan Clinic have resulted in the Riordan IVC Protocol for Adjunctive Cancer Care.

While the focus of this protocol is IVC, Dr. Hugh Riordan emphasized the importance of providing comprehensive wellness care for the cancer patient in conjunction with the IVC therapy.

  1. What are the proven benefits of IVC therapy in the care of cancer patients?

During this intravenous treatment, high doses of buffered ascorbic acid enter your body through a small tube inserted into a vein in your arm or through a port. This results in blood levels of vitamin C that reach 300-400 times the levels achievable by oral intake alone.  The cancer patient can benefit from IVC therapy in several ways:

  1. Because cancer patients are often depleted in vitamin C, the IVC provides a rapid means of restoring tissue reserves.
  2. IVC improves quality of life in cancer patients by a variety of metrics, as documented in four published studies.
  3. IVC reduces inflammation as measured by C-reactive protein levels.
  4. IVC reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which down-regulates the “micro-inflammatory cellular environment” of cancer cells.
  5. IVC is preferentially toxic to tumor cells but not to normal cells.
  6. IVC inhibits the growth factor that promotes new blood vessels to grow towards the tumor.
  1. Is IVC a vitamin or a drug?

IVC shifts ascorbate function from a simple anti-scurvy vitamin to a surprisingly beneficial pro-oxidant with powerful pharmaceutical actions. Pharmaceutical IVC doses have shown significant anticancer effects in animal models and tissue culture studies. This well studied effect has been described as the “selective cytotoxicity effect of high dose ascorbate on tumor cells.” Numerous research institutions have replicated this effect over the last several decades.  Only recently has research on sepsis brought this effect to the attention of conventional medicine.

  1. Is IVC “a natural chemotherapy agent?”

Although the literature and clinical studies do suggest that IVC has a good safety profile and important anti-tumor activity, it is nevertheless not to be considered a “stand alone” chemotherapy agent.  IVC is best utilized as one component of a multi-faceted, adjunctive care approach that would best include dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle changes that support overall wellness in the cancer patient.  When used in this wellness context, IVC acts as an ideal adjunctive therapy that can:

  1. reduce chemotherapy side effects
  2. improve survival time
  3. enhance quality of life for the cancer patients receiving it once or twice weekly as part of an overall lifestyle program of care
  1. How is IVC used in conjunction with traditional oncology?

Published studies have shown that IVC therapy can be used in parallel with traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, without interfering with their effectiveness. Ideally, the cancer patient will enlist BOTH an oncology team that is providing optimal treatment for the cancer disease, and a wellness support team that is addressing the multifaceted challenges that every cancer patient must face. Best practice suggests that the medical implementation of IVC in the care of a cancer patient would lean heavily on baseline and periodic nutritional laboratory monitoring.

  1. What are the “basics” of the Riordan IVC Protocol?

The Riordan IVC Protocol for Adjunctive Cancer Care is an integrative program that favors optimal treatment for both the cancer disease and the wellness care of the patient who has cancer diagnosis.

The decision to start IVC is made by Riordan medical providers after careful review of the patient’s medical history, in conjunction with comprehensive lab testing. Treatment is to be continuous with infusions of IVC two times per week, on average. Regular treatments with IVC, without lapses in treatment, have been shown by our studies to increase the overall effectiveness of the IVC in suppression of tumor growth.

The Multi-C Oral Vitamin C Protocol is advised 2-3 times daily, especially on non-IVC days as an important but often neglected part of an effective implementation of the Riordan Protocol. The Multi-C Protocol includes oral liposomal C, sodium ascorbate, and ascorbyl palmitate to maintain high serum, extracellular, and intracellular levels of vitamin C between intravenous infusions.

Infusion time requirements and financial requirements need to be carefully assessed prior to beginning IVC treatment to determine whether the patient can sustain the benefits of the complete protocol.

IVC is typically continued until there is an improvement of patient conditions (stabilization of patient tumor or no detection of cancer for a 12 month period of time).

At such a point, treatment frequency is gradually tapered while maintaining the Multi-C Oral Protocol.

The updated Riordan IVC Protocol for Adjunctive Cancer Care and our cancer research articles relating to IVC and cancer are helpful to read and share with your medical support team. These can be found on our website

  1. What are the “adjunctive” components of the Riordan IVC Protocol for Adjunctive Cancer Care?

Following Dr. Hugh Riordan’s death in 2005, the Riordan approach to the care of cancer patients was formulated by way of 7 key verbs in 7 precepts:

  1. Create Co-learner Relationships

Cancer patients co-learn best in partnership with their Riordan doctors.

  1. Identify the Causes

The Real Health Discovery Laboratory panel is utilized to search for and address 17 common underlying causes that perpetuate conditions that have been shown to give rise to cancer. Correcting these factors can help the body’s healing system slow and possibly eliminate cancer growth.

  1. Characterize Biochemical Individuality

The Real Health Discovery Laboratory Panel includes vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, hormones, food reactions, inflammation markers, and additional biochemical indicators which can serve as:

A baseline of your current health status

An inventory of correctable health factors

A source of valuable clues that point to correctable carcinogenic factors

  1. Care for the Whole Person

Cancer is a disease that occurs in the real life of a human being. The complex life histories, traumas, stressors, toxic exposures, dietary indiscretions, medication side effects, spiritual crises, poor lifestyle habits, sleep disorders, physical, emotional, psychological, financial, marital and many other health challenge – all of these may be playing into the grueling challenges of a cancer care plan.

The Riordan Approach is not a simple solution for this complex array of lifestyle issues.  It is an acknowledgement that an adjunctive cancer care assessment is more than just infusing vitamin C into the vein of that human being.

  1. Choose Food as Medicine

Although there is no single diet that is widely acknowledged as effective in cancer patient care, the importance of making healthy food choices is paramount for good cancer outcomes.

Food issues that need to be addressed include food wholeness, safety, quality, hidden inflammatory lectins, mold toxins, GMO issues, and effects of food on the gut biome, phytonutrient factors, glycemic issues, ketogenic programs, and the appropriateness of other controversial cancer diet plans.

  1. Cultivate Healthy Reserves

The Riordan Approach, like gardening, takes time, and is the result of continuous effort and on-going co-learning. Healthy reserves include nutrients, habits, social network, spiritual resources, and a strong self-concept.

The Real Health Discovery Panel is a valuable key and starting point for identifying deficiency states that can be corrected as an integral part of building whole-life reserves.

  1. Discover the Healing Power of Nature

An old Latin proverb says: “Medicus curat, natura sanat,” which means the doctor cares {for the patient], nature heals [the patient]. The Riordan Approach integrates the ancient wisdom of natural healing techniques with modern medical science.


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