Vitamins, cancer and hope
Chemotherapy and radiation are standard but even with them, one-third of cancer patients die in five years. Can we improve these therapies? Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, (1) a physician who had earned his PhD in vitamins and is the author of Vitamin C and Cancer, chose diet and vitamins to combat the weakening caused by the usual therapies. One of Hoffer’s early patients had failed pancreatic surgery although a bypass was installed. Her doctor offered no hope. But she had hope. She knew that Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness) had recovered after his doctors had given up. Cousins had used 15,000 mg/day of vitamin C. Hoffer gave her vitamin C at 35,000 mg/day plus other supplements. Seven months later a CT scan showed no sign of cancer. Five years later, she decreased her daily dose of vitamin C. Twenty years after her terrible prognosis, she was age 79. Even pancreatic cancer has been controlled. The American Cancer Society reports that 96% of pancreatic cancer patients die within five years.
Beginning in 1978, Hoffer (2) started a 15-year test on 134 advanced cancer patients. His approach was to combat the weakening caused by cancer, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy by strengthening the body and the immune system. He offered vitamins (Table 1) and diet (low meat, low sugar, high fruits and vegetables). In his test group with patients having many types of advanced cancers, those who refused vitamins lived a median of 2.6 months. Those who accepted vitamins lived 45 months or 17 times longer.
Hoffer (4) has improved his regimen by adding vitamin D3 at 4,000 to 6,000 IU, Coenzyme Q10 at 300 mg and a combination of curcumin 3,000 mg with bioperin 15 mg. As a major change, he recommends that patients receive 100,000 mg of sodium ascorbate by IV daily. He says “In many cases this kind of very safe chemotherapy … I think would bring most cancers under control pretty quickly.”
To all of his cancer patients, Hoffer offered the vitamin regimen, diet and hope based on the results of earlier patients. Those who accepted vitamins thus had three advantages versus those who rejected vitamins. Self-selection is typical of real life but not ideal for statistical purposes. His vitamin therapy “has given them more energy, has improved depression and anxiety, has created a sense of well being, has eased pain and has often eliminated pain entirely.” (1)
Dr. Ewan Cameron, MB, ChB (5) Senior Consultant Surgeon in Scotland, worked with 500 people with cancer and deemed “untreatable.” Instead of a handful of common vitamins, he started his patients on vitamin C only. He administered vitamin C in the form of sodium ascorbate and mostly 10,000 mg/day intravenously for two weeks along with oral vitamin C continuously. His vitamin-taking patients lived four times longer than those without vitamins. Cameron joined with Dr. Linus Pauling, PhD a double Nobel Laureate, to publish the results in Cancer and Vitamin C, 1993.
Many other doctors have also used vitamin C as cancer therapy and published their results. Irwin Stone, D.Sc. (6) and author of The Healing Factor: Vitamin C against Disease; Robert Cathcart, MD a physician in Los Altos, California; Fukumi Morishige, MD in Fukuoka, Japan and Hugh Riordan, MD (7) in Wichita, Kansas, successfully used vitamin C in the form of intravenous sodium ascorbate. Hoffer successfully used vitamin C in the form of oral ascorbic acid by including vitamin E and other vitamins. Edward Creagan, MD (8) and Charles Moertel, MD, (9) physicians at Mayo Clinic, used ascorbic acid at 10,000 mg/day without success. However, they did not administer IV sodium ascorbate or other vitamins. Dr. Mary L. Lesperance (10) followed most of Hoffer’s Average Regimen but omitted vitamin E and E succinate. She also chose control patients who were less sick than the test patients. Her test patients did not live longer than the controls.
Vitamin C is Safe
Many people have taken 30,000 mg/day for years. Several doctors have given 200,000 mg/day by IV. Some claim that vitamin C “might” cause kidney stones although doctors who give large doses of vitamin C rarely if ever see stones in these patients.
Excessive vitamin C can cause diarrhea. People with cancer can frequently take 30,000 mg/day while well people have a typical limit of 3,000 to 10,000 mg/day. If people on therapeutic doses of vitamin C develop diarrhea, the dose should be reduced. Humans cannot make the vitamin C they need although animals can. A 160-pound goat can make 13,000 mg/day–a reasonable dose for people with cancer. Hoffer advised his patients to continue the high doses indefinitely. Table 2 includes some of the precautions, side effects and alternatives listed by Riordan. (7) Cameron and Hoffer did not report that they followed the precautions in step 5.
What Types Of Cancer?
Hoffer has treated over 30 types of cancers with impressive results (Table 3). Most of his patients had advanced cancers that could not be helped by surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. For example, all 32 of the breast cancer patients had surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. The median life of these patients who chose to take vitamins was 70 months while those without vitamins had a median life of only 3.7 months.
Why Vitamins Work
When vitamin C of any type acts as an antioxidant and neutralizes free radicals, it produces dehydroascorbate, DHA. DHA may be the key to vitamin therapy. Normal cells need vitamin C and take this in mostly as DHA. Inside the cell the DHA is converted back to ascorbate, the active part of ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate. Normal cells can control the intake of both DHA and ascorbate. Dr. Benade (11) et al. at the National Cancer Institute found that in-vitro vitamin C selectively destroyed cancer cells by generating intracellular H2O2. Cancer cells are less able than normal cells to neutralize H202 because they are deficient in catalase. Dr. David Agus (12) et al. reported that cancer cells have extra glucose channels that rapidly bring in glucose and excess DHA. Cancer cells also convert the DHA into ascorbate that apparently builds up in excess and this generates cancer-killing hydrogen peroxide, H202. Thus vitamin C is safe in large doses for normal cells but toxic to cancer cells. The good clinical results of Cameron and Hoffer support the National Cancer Institute in-vitro tests. High-dose vitamin C appears to act as an antioxidant in most of the body but as an oxidant within cancer cells.
Hoffer’s regime included multiple vitamins. He recommended vitamin C as ascorbic acid pills, (13) as ascorbic acid powder or as sodium ascorbate powder. The latter two were often combined into water or fruit juice to give a tasty drink. Many took some or all of the vitamin E in the form of d-alpha tocopherol succinate, commonly called vitamin E succinate or dry vitamin E, available in health food stores. The vitamin E succinate may be significant since it limits cancer growth by regulating several genes. Vitamin E and E succinate have shown only minor cancer killing power by themselves but may be of great help with vitamin C. As reported by Hoffer, Pauling said “The cancer death rate could be reduced by 25% of its present valueOif a reasonable multivitamin regimen were to be followed regularly by every person.”
Why Haven’t You Heard of Vitamins as a cancer therapy?
In 1973 Cameron reported the successful use of vitamin C for cancer therapy. Oncologists are trained in the use of mainline therapies. They are frequently not allowed to recommend unapproved or experimental therapies such as vitamin C. They are probably not allowed to recommend doctors or patients who know about vitamins as therapy. Most doctors knowledgeable about vitamins are not allowed to treat cancer but they can strengthen people with cancer. This fine line is important. We need oncologists and their extensive knowledge. However those who want to use vitamins to augment regular therapies must work with a second doctor who is knowledgeable about vitamins.
Antioxidants With Radiation
Many doctors object to people taking antioxidants simultaneously with radiation or chemotherapy because they believe that the vitamin C, acting as an antioxidant, “might” protect the cancer cells. However Davis W. Lamson, (14) MS, ND, summarized 36 clinical tests where antioxidants were used with radiation or chemotherapy. The antioxidants were helpful in 31 cases, neutral or possibly helpful in five and adverse in none. Judith O. Stoute (15) reviewed 44 articles regarding the use of vitamin C with chemotherapy. She found 36 positive studies or reviews, one neutral study, 2 negative reviews and 4 responses to the negative reviews. Because vitamin C, radiation and some chemotherapies appear to kill cancer by a similar mechanism, vitamin C can generally be used with radiation and chemotherapy.
Still, many oncologists object to antioxidants during regular therapies. The patient may wish to include a doctor knowledgeable about vitamins as a team member with the oncologist. Doctors who can assist cancer patients with nutrition and vitamins may be located at The American College for Advancement of Medicine (www.acam.org).
Current “good science” requires that new therapies pass large, randomized and double blind tests. These tests may be useful to determine small improvements between similar therapies. However, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy were each accepted in desperation and in comparison with therapies then existing. They were accepted without randomized tests. Radiation and chemotherapy have not and cannot be given randomized, double blind tests because of the obvious side effects of nausea, weakness, skin burns, neuropathy and hair loss. Vitamins are safer and have mostly minor side effects. Cameron and Hoffer felt that randomized tests with vitamins are unethical because they believed that vitamins help patients and a doctor should do his best for his patients. To require vitamins to pass tests that radiation and chemotherapies have not and cannot, pass raises questionable logic. Without randomized tests, vitamin therapy remains experimental. Eventually vitamin therapy may be accepted by comparison with existing therapies.
Experimental vitamins might be tested in a terminal, hospice situation. There the oncologist realizes that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy have helped as much as they can and doctors knowledgeable about vitamins are available. Terminal patients are frequently willing to try experimental therapies. Clinical trials are also experimental. In these tests half of the patients often get a placebo and thus are not helped. Vitamins are probably safer and offer more hope to terminal patients–hope based on clinical trials of over a thousand people.
Regular cancer therapies are only moderately successful. Tested but unproven are Cameron’s vitamin C therapy and Hoffer’s multivitamin therapy. Vitamin C is very safe and its side effects are apparently temporary. A therapy based on work at the National Cancer Institute may explain why vitamin C, an antioxidant, can act as an oxidant within cancer cells. The mechanism applies to all types of cancer that take in excess glucose. This explains why Hoffer obtained good results with 30 types of cancer.
The therapies of Cameron and Hoffer have not been given randomized tests and probably won’t–for lack of money. Most oncologists do not study vitamins as cancer therapy and are not trained or allowed to prescribe vitamins as cancer therapy. Doctors knowledgeable about vitamins but not certified as oncologists can prescribe vitamins to strengthen cancer patients but not as cancer therapy. Thus two types of doctors may be needed for a patient’s care and safety. Places to try experimental cancer therapies are with hospice palliation or instead of clinical trials. If these are successful, vitamins may eventually be accepted without randomized tests.
Although Cameron’s and Hoffer’s vitamin therapies are demonstrated effective, they are considered experimental. Radiation and chemotherapies were accepted by comparison with existing therapies. Vitamin therapies, being very safe, might eventually be accepted by comparison. After regular cancer therapies have been used where curative, current cancer patients may consider vitamin therapy as an addition to hospice palliation or instead of experimental cancer trials. Patients choosing vitamin therapy should work with both an oncologist and a doctor knowledgeable about vitamins for their own safety.
Table 1. Dr. Hoffer’s Average Regimen (3)
Use surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in moderation. Then add each day
in divided doses with meals:
Beta carotene, IU 10,000 to 75,000
Vitamin B complex B-50 to B-100
Vitamin B-3, mg 1,500 to 3,000
Vitamin B-6, mg 250
Vitamin C, mg 12,000
Vitamin E, IU 800 to 1,600
Selenium, mcg 200 to 600
Zinc, mg 50 to 220
The vitamin C can be the regular ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate or a
mixture. He occasionally included calcium and magnesium.
Table 2. Precautions with High-Dose Vitamin C
1. Build up the dose slowly by about 1,000 mg/day to minimize diarrhea
and other problems.
2. If necessary, decrease the dose slowly to allow the body to adjust.
3. Vitamin C–especially ascorbic acid–may cause gas, upset stomach or
skin itch. If this occurs, consider using sodium ascorbate or calcium
4. Excess sodium intake from sodium ascorbate is possible. Consider
using calcium ascorbate or ascorbic acid.
5. Some people have an immune deficiency called glucose-6-phosphate
dehydrogenase that can cause acute anemia.
6. For their own safety people should work with a doctor knowledgeable
about vitamins. All people may not be able to use high doses of
Table 3. Median Survival of Patients with Various Types of Cancer,
Type of Cancer With Vitamins Without Vitamins
Breast 70 3.7
Uterus 99 4.0
Ovary 16 3.6
Lung 17 2.0
Pancreas 40 2.4
All types 45 2.6
1. Hoffer A. Vitamin C and cancer, discovery, recovery, controversy, 2000, Kingston, Ontario: Quarry Press.
2. Hoffer A and Pauling L. Hardin Jones biostatistical analysis of mortality data for cohorts of cancer patients with a large fraction surviving at the termination of the study and a comparison of survival times of cancer patients receiving large regular doses of vitamin C and other nutrients with similar patients not receiving those doses. J of Orthomolecular Medicine. 1990;5:143-154.
3. Hoffer A and Pauling L. Hardin Jones biostatistical analysis of mortality data for a second set of cohorts of cancer patients with a large fraction surviving at the termination of the study and a comparison of survival times of cancer patients not receiving these doses. J of Orthomolecular Medicine. 1993;8:1547-167.
4. Letter, A. Hoffer to R. Houston, January 18, 2005.
5. Cameron E and Pauling L. Cancer and Vitamin C. 1993, Philadelphia, PA: Camino Books.
6. Stone I, The healing factor–vitamin C against disease. 1972, New York, NY: Grosset and Dunlap.
7. Riordan NH, Riordan HD, Meng X, Li Y and Jackson JA. Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent. Medical Hypotheses. 1995;44:207-213.
8. Creagan ET, Moertel CG, O’Fallon JR et al. Failure of high-dose vitamin C (ascorbic acid) therapy to benefit patients with advanced cancer. New England J of Medicine. 1979;301:687-690.
9. Moertel CG, Fleming TR, Creagan ET, Rubin J, O’Connell MJ and Ames MM. High-dose vitamin C versus placebo in the treatment of patients with advanced cancer who have had no prior chemotherapy. New England J of Medicine. 1985;312:137-41.
10. Lesperance ML, Olivotto IA, Forde N et al. Mega-dose vitamins and minerals in the treatment of nonmetastatic breast cancer: an historical cohort study. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. 2002;76:137-143.
11. Benade L, Howard T and Burke D. Synergistic killings of Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells by ascorbate and 3 amino-1, 2, 4-triazole. Oncology. 1969;23:33-43.
12. Agus DB, Vera JC and Golde DW. Stromal cell oxidation: a mechanism by which tumors obtain vitamin C. Cancer Research. 1999;59:4555-4558.
13. Hoffer A. Clinical procedures in treating terminally ill cancer patients with vitamin C. downloaded 1/27/2003, http://orthomed.org/links/papers/hofcanc/htm.
14. Lamson DW and Brignall MS. Antioxidants and cancer therapy II: quick reference guide. Alternative Medical Review. 2000;5(2):152-163.
15. Stoute JA. The use of vitamin C with chemotherapy in cancer treatment: an annotated bibliography. J of Orthomolecular Medicine. 2004;19(4):198-245.
by Reagan Houston, MS, PE[c]
The author is a research chemical engineer and a prostate cancer support group facilitator. When his prostate cancer was diagnosed eight years ago, his PSA, a measure of the cancer, was eight and doubling every six months–a sign of aggressive cancer. A PSA of four or less is normal. He chose intermittent triple hormone therapy and Hoffer type vitamins, both highly experimental in 1997. His PSA has averaged 0.6 for the last four years and is now 0.3. He has never had surgery, chemotherapy or radiation of any kind.
Reagan Houston, MS, PE
600 Carolina Village Rd. #165
Hendersonville, N. Carolina 28792 USA
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