Monday, April 15, 2013

Cancer & Vitamin C by Linus Pauling

"Vitamin C" and "Linus Pauling" seem to go hand in hand. Many forget that Pauling won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 and also the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.

Fewer people know that Pauling's work, influenced by Dr. Irwin Stone, who argued that nearly all human beings were suffering from vitamin C deficiencies and that everyone requires 50 or 100 or even 200 times as much vitamin C as typical diets or the RDA provide.

Even fewer know that this work was preceded by a Canadian's work, Dr. William McCormick's, on collagen production and the role of weak collagen in many chronic  diseases--from stretch marks to heart disease. McCormick's theory was that cancer was intrinsically a collagen disease, caused by insufficient vitamin C (since the late 1700s, scurvy and cancer have been seen as "going steady," showing up together as terrifying dating partners).

Last week, I finally cracked open Linus Pauling's book "Cancer and Vitamin C" (co-authored with Scottish cancer surgeon, Ewan Cameron). Written in 1979 and updated in 1993, it's somewhat dated (much has happened in the last two decades) but it's still worth a read.

Lots of discussion on collagen and its role in keeping cancers from spreading. The first big idea is that strong collagen makes for a strong "intercellular cement," making good, healthy walls between organs and blood vessels (basically keeping the right things in and the wrong things out). Modern doctors know that wounds heal dramatically better with high-dose vitamin C after surgeries, so this is a well-understood concept.

Cancer's deadly strategy involves a kind of chemical warfare, which uses a specific enzyme (hyaluronidase) to weaken or dissolve collagen walls and increase tissue permeability. When cancer breaks through vulnerable cellular walls, gangs of rogue cells are freed to rove and search for new territories to plunder. New colonies of renegade cells, no longer interested in supporting the health of the wider organism, survive as bandits and ninja assassins. This is the process we know as metastasis.

The second big idea is that vitamin C is nectar from the Gods for collagen production. Yet, the evolutionary joke is that humans and apes (in a strange party with guinea pigs, a fruit-eating bat, trout, and some grasshoppers) lost the ability to create vitamin C inside their bodies. Nature selected for our bodies to do other things given abundant ascorbic acid in the fruits and vegetables found in the tropics, where all primates evolved.

Daily chow for a healthy guinea pig involves 4 grams of vitamin C. Doesn't it make sense that demands for a person with cancer would be much higher? Encapsulating a tumor requires loads of vitamin C in order to mend weakened collagen and knit together a dense membrane of collagen fibrils (essentially scar tissue), which effectively imprison invasive tumor cells. This was Pauling's and Cameron's hypothesis, and they started treating hundreds of "untreatable" or "terminal" cancer patients with high-dose vitamin C--with extremely promising results in both quality of life and longevity of patients studied.

The third big idea is that ascorbic acid levels are also correlated to activity of disease-fighting lymphocytes (the white blood cells that determine the immune system's response to invaders). Vitamin C does a lot more than just mend and strengthen collagen, although that's a big deal by itself.  Higher ascorbic acid status directly correlates to higher levels of lymphocytes, with a dose of 10 grams per day for three days causing lymphocyte production to triple, while 18 grams per day quadrupled lymphocyte production.

Studies by Yonemoto while working in the National Cancer Institute in the 1970s leave "little doubt that a high intake of vitamin C by cancer patients increases the effectiveness of the body's protective mechanism involving lymphocytes and leads to a more favorable prognosis for the patient."

A fourth big idea is that vitamin C is adept at promoting detoxification. In concert with oxygen and enzymes, vitamin C "converts toxic substances, including those that cause cancer, into nontoxic derivatives that then are eliminated in the urine. This detoxifying action has been demonstrated in scores of substances. Among these substances are the carcinogenic hydrocarbons, the nitrosamines, and other cancer-producing chemicals."

The authors state in no uncertain terms: "No matter what the mechanisms of its action might be, there soon was no doubt that when dying cancer patients were given large doses of vitamin C they felt much better...and it seemed certain that the ascorbate-treated patients were living much longer than would have been expected." Pauling and Cameron went on to encourage the use of high-dose vitamin C immediately upon detection of cancer, when it could be more effective in helping prevent traveling cancer cells from colonizing in distant parts of the body.

There is much more that we've learned about cancer, nutrition, and orthomolecular medicine since the early '90s, but clearly many great minds have built on what Pauling and Cameron pushed so hard to get validated. The National Cancer Institute's Symposium on Vitamin C (September 1990)  had this statement in a summary report that advised more study: "The take-home message was that vitamin C has multiple complex effects on a variety of biologic activities, perhaps wider than any other nutrient."

For another more recent study:
Effect of high-dose intravenous vitamin C on inflammation in cancer patients

For a video:
High-dose vitamins and vitamin C for fighting cancer by Dr. Andrew Saul

Please share your perspectives on this topic, just write to me directly.

CAUTION: None of this material can replace good advice and treatment by a trained healthcare professional. Please consult with your physician before attempting to treat yourself, as each individual has special needs and special genetic considerations.

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