Can Vitamins Fight Cancer?

What researchers understand – and have no idea – about treating cancer with nutrients.

Hydroxyurea. Mercaptopurine. Cyclophosphamide. One thing all cancer drugs seem to have in common is their hard-to-spell names.

Or do they? How about A? D? E? These aren’t fancy brand-new drugs – they’re plain old vitamins. Yet, when administered by researchers in large doses, some vitamins may act like drugs, or deal with standard cancer-fighting drugs. It isn’t clear yet whether the research into this futuristic idea of vitamin chemo-therapy will ever pan out. But if the research study is successful, chemotherapy could be much easier to take – and a lot much easier to spell.

Here’s exactly what scientists have actually found out up until now:


Synthetic variations of vitamins A and D appear to hold pledge in the treatment of myeloid leukemia, a cancer of leukocyte.

The primary problem in leukemia is that immature white blood cells multiply in the bloodstream, crowding out normal red and white cells. This causes serious anemia and makes up the body immune system. But through a hormone interaction, vitamins A and D appear to make the immature cells grow up. Fully grown cells appear to stop their fast reproduction and have the ability to carry out their immune-system functions.

Initially the active form of vitamin D was tested, but in high doses this has the regrettable side-effect of triggering the body to maintain calcium. That could cause complications, consisting of hardening of the important organs and death. However the artificial variation of vitamin D has a more effective maturing impact on leukemia cells – and a much-lowered calcium-loading mechanism. In research studies on leukemia lab mice, this artificial compound achieved better outcomes than pure vitamin D. “A few of the mice treated with synthetic D might in fact be treated of their leukemia,” reports H. Phillip Koeffler, M.D., teacher of medicine at UCLA and one of the leading scientists in this field.

Artificial vitamin A has actually been checked in humans against leukemia, but not on a really prevalent scale. A couple of years back, American researchers at several various medical centers were involved in a double-blind, randomized trial of 13-cisretinoic acid (a retinoid substance) in patients with a pre-leukemia condition called myelodysplastic syndrome. Problems with the study – including numerous patients stopping the trial – cast suspicion on the results, according to Dr. Koeffler.

Among the scientists, however, continued the research study on his own after the trial ended, and found a considerable action. Was the initial trial too short? It’s difficult to state without efforts to duplicate those outcomes. The study likewise showed doctors that the side-effects of retinoid therapy drying can be lowered with dosages of vitamin E.

More reports have actually come from other countries. Scientists in China and France have actually apparently attained promising outcomes using trans retinoic acid (ATRA) against severe promyelocytic leukemia (APL). The majority of the clients in Chinese research studies went to remission. A French scientist has apparently duplicated their outcomes.

Other research reveals that of 7 APL clients (from four different studies) treated with isotretinoin, four had exactly what was described “exceptional actions.” Plainly, there’s enough proof to necessitate further research study on both synthetic A and D.


Leucovorin is an artificial form of the B vitamin folate. It’s being utilized in mix with a cancer drug called fluorouracil, frequently referred to as 5-FU. 5-FU/leucovorin is being used versus numerous kinds of cancer.

By itself, 5-FU has been used versus colon cancer for more than 5 years. It disrupts cancer development by binding to an enzyme needed for cell recreation. (Some cancer cells reproduce much faster than normal cells. That’s how some tumours grow in relation to surrounding tissue.).

Leucovorin, however, appears to reinforce the bond between 5-FU and the enzyme. The drug/vitamin combination keep the enzyme for a longer period than the drug alone. Fewer free enzymes indicates slowed or stopped tumour development.

5-FU/leucovorin has actually identified its effectiveness versus advanced, inoperable colon cancer. “That’s where we hope to have genuine influence on the survival rates,” says Susan G. Arbuck, a research study clinician at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, in New York.

5-FU/leucovorin is presently also being tested versus a variety of other melignancies, including cancers of the stomach, breast, pancreas, head and neck.


Colorectal polyps are simple to get rid of however may repeat. That prompted scientists at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research study in Canada to test the result of vitamin C and E on polyp recurrence.

Two hundred people who were devoid of polyps after surgery were split into two groups. One was offered everyday supplements of 400 mg. of vitamin E. the other got blank look-alikes. After about two years, all the clients were checked for polyp recurrence. The scientists noted a minor reduction in polyp reoccurrence amongst the patients receiving vitamins C and E. they stressed that further research studies ought to be carried out to rule out the possibility that this was an opportunity finding.


Bladder polyps, which can end up being cancerous, are relatively simple to treat by surgical removal. However there’s a 70 percent risk of reoccurrence or that brand-new polyps will form. To avoid that, scientists at West Virginia University evaluated mega-doses of four vitamins as an adjunct to conventional treatment after bladder surgery.

Patients are being divided into two groups: Individuals in one group take several vitamins at the recommended daily allowance levels; those in the other group get the very same, however with mega-doses of vitamins A, B6, C and E. vitamin B6 has actually been evaluated with excellent lead to other initial blabber-cancer research studies in people. Vitamins A and C have actually been tried versus blabber cancer in animal studies, with early encouraging outcomes. Vitamin E hasn’t been checked particularly versus bladder polyps in the past, however has actually shown guarantee in other cancer trials.


A few years ago, a report from the British Columbia Cancer proving ground, in Vancouver, announced that Vitamin A could heal oral leukoplakias (pre-cancerous sores inside the mouth). The study included 21 people who chew betel leaves with tobacco and betel nut mixture understood to cause an abundance of leukoplakias. After 6 months of taking vitamin A supplements, 57 percent of the people showed no detectable illness. And none of the tobacco/betel chewers developed brand-new sores while on the vitamin A. specialists approximate that usually just 5 percent of such sores vanish on their own.

Now word comes from the University of California Scientific Cancer Center and the University of Arizona Cancer Center that a milder kind of vitamin therapy has the very same result. Seventeen individuals with oral leukoplakias were given beta-carotene. Each person took 30 mg. of supplemental beta-carotene daily for three months. Those whose leukoplakias responded to the treatment were kept on it for an additional three months.

At the end of the study, 2 patients had total remission of their leukoplakias, and 12 others had partial remission. Of the remaining three, one revealed no modification and the other 2 became worse. In general, that’s an 82 percent positive response rate.

The amazing aspect of this research study is that beta-carotene, the most safe source of vitamin A, was so efficient. Pure vitamin A is poisonous in high dosages, and even the retinoids have unpleasant side-effects (mostly skin problems). However beta-carotene is practically problem-free, even in high dosages. That’s due to the fact that the body transforms just as much beta-carotene into vitamin A as is required at the moment. The excess is excreted harmlessly.


A number of artificial types of vitamin A, collectively called retinoids, have been tested as treatments for skin cancers referred to as basal-cell and squamous-cell cancer. In numerous tests – simply in the experimental phase – oral doses of retinoids have actually worked versus these cancers since retinoids collect mostly in the skin.

The majority of the studies carried out up until now have actually been small, however the results are encouraging. These skin cancers, like all the others that retinoids have actually been utilized versus, are unlikely to regress by themselves. So scientists believe that although their tests are initial and have no control groups, the retinoids are probably responsible for the favorable effects.

The retinoids etretinate and isotretinoin have been utilized to treat basal-cell cancer. In 3 different research studies on a total of 56 people, 23 revealed a partial regression of cancer (the tumour diminished), and five revealed complete regression (vanished). This is an overall action rate of 50 percent, suggesting that half individuals experienced some decrease in the number or size of tumours.

Retinoids have likewise been checked versus malignant cancer malignancy, a more serious type of skin cancer. Initial results from a little research study of 20 people with innovative melanoma showed some shrinking of tumours in three people. It’s far from a remedy, but it’s a glimmer of hope against a type of cancer that has actually been resistant to drugs.

A rare skin cancer called mycosis fungoides had revealed good action to retinoid treatment. In five preliminary research studies, an overall 78 people with the disease were put on oral isotretinoin. Majority showed at least a partial reaction.

As soon as treatment was finished, though, many of the cancers returned. This suggests that routine doses of retinoids may be required for a “treatment”. To name a few things, physicians are conducting research studies to figure out the best maintenance dosage: one that minimizes skin and mucous-membrane drying, the primary side-effect.

Scientists are having better luck using oral retinoids versus squamous-cell cancer. In 4 little research studies, an overall 14 squamous-cell patients were treated with etretinate (4 patients), isotretinoin (9), or arotinoid (1). 6 of the 14 had partial remission (tumour decreased in size) or short-term remission (tumours diminished or stopped growing for a short time); another 4 had complete, sustained remissions of the squamous-cell tumours. That amounts to a 71 percent response om an admittedly little sample.

Both basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas are fairly easy to treat with surgical elimination (utilized in 90 percent of cases), radiation therapy or tissue damage with extreme heat or cold. So, why all this difficulty about retinoids?

Surgical treatment and other tissue-destroying therapies leave scars. That’s not a big issue for an individual with one tumour on the back of a hand. But a bulk of individuals with carcinoma have several tumours on areas of body that are frequently exposed to the tumour-inducing ultraviolet rays of the sun: not only the hands, however the head and neck as well.

Retinoids don’t leave scars: Tumours diminish away and normal tissue fills in. That’s especially important in innovative disease. “One patient had serious, disfiguring tumours on his neck and nose. Folks also did well doing an online psychic reading. After six months on isotrtinoin, the neck tumour had shrunk to a small, flat lesion. And the nose tumour had actually diminished by 70 per cent, with preliminary rebuilding of his all-but-eroded nose,” described Scott M. Lippman, M.D., of the hematology/oncology department of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.


Vitamin chemotherapy is a sexy idea: The ultimate goal is an efficient natural cancer treatment without any discomfort and very little expenditure. But it’s not that simple – yet.

Researchers are going complete bore to see if any of these treatments will turn out to be effective. As well as for the vitamins revealing the greatest capacity, concerns of dose and side-effects must be dealt with.

Note, too, that numerous of the vitamin therapies do not utilize pure vitamins. Leucovorin and isotrtinoin are artificial chemical equivalent of folate and vitamin A, respectively. Slight modifications in their chemistry make them more efficient treatments and/or minimize harmful side-effects seen in high dosages of the original vitamin. These synthetic vitamins are different sufficient to be dealt with as drugs by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States where they’re available by prescription just.

Up until scientists pin down the facts, the very best course is to choose exactly what we know. Go with the proven medical treatments. Have actually presumed cancer inspected by a physician. And try a great defense: There’s strong clinical proof that a healthy diet plan can help prevent the start of specific types of cancer. To use this proof to your maximum advantage, eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet that is low in fat. This includes low-fat meats and poultry, fish, whole-grain products, and generous quantities of fresh vegetables and fruits. If you’re on a restricted diet – or need added guarantee that you’re getting the requisite amount of vitamins and minerals – you may want to consider taking a numerous supplement.