Vitamin C effective in targeting cancer stem cells

March 8, 2017, University of Salford

Vitamin C is up to 10 times more effective at stopping cancer cell growth than pharmaceuticals such as 2-DG, according to scientists in Salford, UK.

The research, published in Oncotarget, is the first evidence that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can be used to target and kill (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 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 (regrowth).

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 - caffeic acid phenyl ester (CAPE), silibinin and - 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 potency.

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 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 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 metastasis."

Explore further: Stem cell 'marking' study offers alterative hypothesis of cancer metastasis

More information: Gloria Bonuccelli et al, 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

Related Stories

Stem cell 'marking' study offers alterative hypothesis of cancer metastasis

January 18, 2017
Stem cells are among the most energetically activated, migratory and proliferative sub-populations of tumour cells, according to observations by scholars at the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Salford.

Vitamin A may help improve pancreatic cancer chemotherapy

May 24, 2016
The addition of high doses of a form of vitamin A could help make chemotherapy more successful in treating pancreatic cancer, according to an early study by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). The promising initial results ...

Graphene shows potential as novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategy

February 25, 2015
University of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralise cancer stem cells while not harming other cells.

Oral milk thistle extract stops colorectal cancer stem cells from growing tumors

April 20, 2015
In results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2015, a University of Colorado Cancer Center study shows that orally administering the chemical silibinin, purified from milk thistle, ...

Low vitamin D levels linked to increased risk of bladder cancer

November 8, 2016
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing bladder cancer, according to a systematic review of seven studies presented today at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Brighton. Though ...

Recommended for you

New breath and urine tests detect early breast cancer more accurately

April 25, 2018
A new method for early and accurate breast cancer screening has been developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center, using commercially available technology.

Do prostate cancer cells have an Achilles' heel?

April 25, 2018
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago describe new ways to selectively kill prostate cancer cells by exploiting the cells' revved-up metabolism. They report their findings in the online journal, eLife.

Research shows possible new target for immunotherapy for solid tumors

April 24, 2018
Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals a potential new target to help T cells (white blood cells) infiltrate certain solid tumors.

Changes in breast tissue increase cancer risk for older women

April 24, 2018
Researchers in Norway, Switzerland, and the United States have identified age-related differences in breast tissue that contribute to older women's increased risk of developing breast cancer. The findings, published April ...

Targeting molecules called miR-200s and ADAR2 could prevent tumor metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer

April 24, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The main cause of death in patients with colorectal cancer is liver metastasis, with nearly 70% of patients ...

Experimental arthritis drug prevents stem cell transplant complication

April 24, 2018
An investigational drug in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis prevents a common, life-threatening side effect of stem cell transplants, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.