Dr. Ron Hunninghake here discusses about Vitamin C and how it acts as pro-oxidant to fight against cancer cells…
Ron Hunninghake, M.D.
I don’t know about you, but as I get older I have this sense that it seems like everyone is getting cancer. Does anyone share this with me? It seems to be a growing problem. I know it does relate to the aging process. To me, it is the fact that a lot of people are still somewhat fatalistic about cancer and look upon it as, if not a death sentence, a very difficult time ahead with the various types of therapies that we have available in conventional medicine.
Here at The Center, for the last 15 years, we have been pioneering a new understanding that can help those patients who get cancer more effectively by treating the cancer, and reducing the side effects of the treatments they undergo, and hopefully use this information to prevent cancer. I want to emphasize that I am speaking about a new understanding.
Now, many of you may not have heard any of the previous lectures we’ve had on Vitamin C, so in this lecture I’m going to fill you with a lot of that information. For more detail, we have a series of talks that I have given, as well as other researchers here at The Center, on how to monitor IV Vitamin C and what really causes cancer.
Today, I would like to emphasize the mechanism of how Vitamin C can help with you, your family member, or a friend fight cancer. More importantly, I’m hoping this information gets out to the medical profession at large, because there are some misunderstandings about Vitamin C and how it fights cancer that we’re hoping to overcome with better information. Today I’m shooting for clarity. I always want my lectures to be clear, but probably more so than ever before. I hope this group gets a good clear understanding of how Vitamin C can be a very effective tool in the fight against cancer.
Here at The Center, the Bright Spot for Health, this has been one of our major research focus areas. We have a lot of patients coming to us these days with cancer, to be treated with the IV Vitamin C. I would like to dedicate my lecture today to the first successfully treated cancer patient here at The Center.
George Williamson developed adenocarcinoma of the right kidney in 1980. His case was written up by Dr. James Jackson and published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, which you can now read online. George appropriately had his kidney removed, but by that point he already had metastases, it had already spread to his lung and his liver. I’m sure most of you know that once it starts to spread, that is a very ominous progression of the disease.
Based upon Dr. Riordan’s relationship with Dr. Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize winner, who was very interested in Vitamin C, as well as Dr. Ewan Cameron, a Scottish surgeon who was doing IVC research in Scotland. Dr. Riordan started George on 30 grams of IV Intravenous Vitamin C, twice a week and George began to feel better.
By the time he had completed 15 months of this therapy, he went back to his oncologist. The oncologist verified that the metastases were gone and the cancer had cleared up. Then 14 years later, at the age of 84, George died of something completely different than his cancer. Earlier this year, his wife, Opal, passed away. I’ve been very grateful to both of them and their enthusiasm for The Center. I always want to remember that we are here at The Center to serve people.
Cancer isn’t something that just happens. It happens to real people and people like yourselves and our family members. My wife has had breast cancer, and we have friends who have fallen victim to cancer, so we need really good tools to help patients overcome this dreaded illness.
I’m going to be talking a little about chemistry today, but remember my goal is to make it understandable, so for all of you who used to freeze up in school whenever the word chemistry was mentioned, you can relax. I’m going to keep it simple and you need to understand this if you want to understand what makes Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) so special in the realm of cancer therapy. There is a term called redox and it is really a part of the whole life process.
I’m sure you’ve heard the word antioxidant. An antioxidant is something like if you cut an apple and you leave it exposed to the oxygen, the oxygen will oxidize the surface of the apple and it will start to turn brown. However, if you squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on it – that is a reducing agent – it is an antioxidant. So, an anti-oxidant reduces the oxidative effect. It sounds a little confusing, but as we go along, I want you to see that this actually is kind of a circular thing you can oxidize, but you can also reduce, and you can regenerate some of these molecules like Vitamin C to kind of put it back into battle again, recharge it, give it a new life so it can do its job better than it otherwise could.
There is a very interesting phenomenon that occurs around Vitamin C and I’m going to try to explain this. You know, most of us have heard the term Vitamin. Vitamin C is also ascorbic acid, but we refer to it as Vitamin C because vitamins are small amounts of something that does something else.
We know Vitamin C prevents what disease? Scurvy! Right but it only takes a very small amount. The recommended daily allowance to prevent scurvy is like somewhere between 60 to 90, to maybe a little bit more of milligrams of Vitamin C. About the amount of Vitamin C that would fit on the head of a pin.
Now, do you think that amount would be enough to treat cancer? No, we have to think of Vitamin C in terms of dosage, so if we are going to get into using Vitamin C, now maybe small amounts of Vitamin C could be somewhat helpful in preventing cancer, but in treating cancer we’re going to have to use larger doses. So at low dosage, Vitamin C acts almost purely as an antioxidant, which most of us know it as. But what is surprising, and what most oncologists still don’t know or understand, is that at much higher doses, Vitamin C can act as both, an antioxidant and a pro-oxidant. It doesn’t suddenly change, it always is, and always has been, and always will be an antioxidant. But, it enters into a special chemical reaction in the body that creates a pro-oxidant effect which we are going to go into in just a second.
What antioxidants do in the body?
Here we have Vitamin C acting as an antioxidant. Basically what antioxidants do is they have these – here is ascorbic acid – Vitamin C – it has these electrons and it very generously donates them to this treacherous free radical which can act as a harmful oxidant to your body. We think it is excessive oxidants that over time injure the cells, change the DNA, and set them up for the formation of cancer.
So, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can neutralize free radicals. But, when it does, once it has given its electrons away, it now becomes dehydroascorbate, this is the oxidized form of Vitamin C, and the body gets rid of it.
Here is a specific example where two iron atoms are reduced (the +3 is reduced to the +2) by ascorbic acid and now you have reduced iron and the dehydroscorbate acid is excreted in the kidneys. We’re not using it anymore.
What happens to this reduced iron? It interacts with oxygen. What happens when you take a piece of metal, say iron lying on the ground, if left there long enough it rusts? Rusting is a form of oxidation, so because it interacts with oxygen and it forms an oxygen free radical which is very damaging. That results in the formation of something we all are familiar with which is hydrogen peroxide.
We know that hydrogen peroxide can be used to treat wounds, and if you know a little bit about cell biology it has a regulatory effect in the cell, and it can be used to fight infections. So this is how, when you put Vitamin C in and it interacts with iron, it can have a pro-oxidant effect in the body.
Let us take this one step further. The peroxide itself can interact with more reduced iron, if it is available, and it will form a very, very harsh free radical called the hydroxyl radical. This hydroxyl radical is much more potent as an oxidizing agent than even hydrogen peroxide itself is.
Now here is the key part, this is the part that most doctors don’t understand. So you are going to be ahead of most of the oncologists in the world just by understanding this one slide. Mainly, if you are using Vitamin C in bigger doses, and you are reducing the iron in your body, or the copper, or any metal in your body, if you reduce it, then that can go over and interact with the peroxide and form the hydroxyl radical.
But, if you can take this oxidized iron and once again reduce it, do you see how this is starting to form a cycle? What you need though is, you need a continuous supply of high dose Vitamin C. This is the IV Vitamin C. If we are putting IV Vitamin C in, in large amounts, and we’re reducing the iron, and it is interacting with the peroxide, what we have happening is, like a water wheel. And as long as the Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is going in and the oxidized form is going out, it is turning the wheel and producing more and more of the hydroxyl radical. It is the hydroxyl radical that is acting as the pro-oxidant to kill tumor cells if you have the right dosage. If you have the right dosage.
This is why so many doctors and so many researchers have misunderstood Vitamin C. They think of it as a little trace vitamin. But in order to get this pro-oxidant effect, you are going to have to add in large amounts of Vitamin C in order to reach a certain threshold to where the hydroxyl radical is formed.
Now, this is not just me talking, this phenomenon was recently verified at the National Institutes of Health in this particular research project. Ascorbic in pharmacologic concentrations, not nutritional, but pharmacologic concentrations, selectively generates the ascorbate radical and hydrogen peroxide in extra cellular fluid in vivo. In other words, in a living body, this phenomenon happens. You can read about it in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Vitamin C as preventive agent
Coming back to what role the oxidants play in the body, we were talking about the word redox. Redox environment, a simple rule of thumb is, that an environment of healthy cells is reducing. In other words, the free radicals are controlled, rather than oxidizing. We depend upon oxidation for metabolism, immune defense, and cell signaling purposes, but we must avoid the damage it can cause. In other words, when your oxidation gets out of control there is too much damage to the apple surface and it becomes rotten – too much damage to the iron, you can’t use it anymore because it rusts too much. The body’s life is a process of keeping that in balance, keeping it in check. That is why we now know, it is a clearly established fact, that colorful fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants, create and just what I just said, a healthy reducing environment in ourselves. That helps us prevent the cellular damage that can lead to cancer.
So, Vitamin C, as an antioxidant, is a great preventive agent. All of your antioxidants help to control excess oxidation. What we need, if the damage is already done, and the cancer has emerged, you can’t rely upon just the antioxidant properties of Vitamin C, now we need something a little tougher, a little bit more potent. That is where the high dosage of Vitamin C comes in and has been shown to kill tumor cells. This is what we call tumor cytotoxicity. It is toxic to the cells that make up tumors. So, the high dose intravenous Vitamin C generates hydroxyl radicals which can damage the cells, except that healthy cells have a protection built in.
Since peroxide is a normal part of cellular physiology, healthy cells have their own protective enzyme called, catalase. What do you think cancer cells have? Do you think they have catalase? No, they are low in catalase and that is what makes IV Vitamin C so slick. That probably isn’t the right scientific word, but the fact that it can, at the same time, act as an antioxidant and protect your healthy cells, yet generate the hydroxyl radical, a very powerful radical that attacks the cells that are low in catalase, namely your cancer cells, means this is almost like a smart bomb or a smart drug in the sense that it is going to strengthen your basic protective mechanisms but attack the invading tumor cells. That is why we are so excited about IV Vitamin C here at the Center. It is not just us though, there has been a number of researchers who have demonstrated this phenomenon.
We are not the only ones anymore who are looking into this. I think Dr. Jackson, our Bio-Center Lab Director, did a search on IV Vitamin C studies around the world, and I believe he found over 60 that are now going on. So, research is starting to get behind this. But, I still think the general understanding of Vitamin C is, it is just a little vitamin that you drink in your orange juice, yes it is good to help you prevent cancer, but when you have got a really serious disease like cancer, Vitamin C is not strong enough. Well, folks, I think it is strong enough if you use the right dose.
How oxidation works
This chart shows how oxidation works. Normally when you increase the level of oxidative stress in any cellular environment, if you injure the cells, they will start to divide more rapidly. It is like an inflammatory response as they try to adapt to that particular stress.
But, if the damage is great enough the P51 gene, which will tell the cell, “Hey, it is time to quit, there is too much damage here”, it will create an automatic suicide of the cell. That is what they call programmed cell death or Apoptosis. So, this is normally what happens, and this is what chemotherapy and radiation therapy takes advantage of.