Can Vitamins Fight Cancer?

What scientists apperceive – and don’t apperceive – about alleviative blight with nutrients.

Hydroxyurea. Mercaptopurine. Cyclophosphamide. One affair all blight drugs assume to accept in accepted is their hard-to-spell names.

Or do they? How about A? D? E? These aren’t adorned new drugs – they’re apparent old vitamins. Yet, if administered by scientists in ample doses, some vitamins may act like drugs, or plan with accepted cancer-fighting drugs. It isn’t bright yet whether the analysis into this affected angle of vitamin chemo-therapy will anytime pan out. But if the analysis is successful, chemotherapy could be abundant easier to yield – and a lot easier to spell.

Here’s what scientists accept abstruse so far:


Synthetic versions of vitamins A and D assume to authority affiance in the analysis of myeloid leukemia, a blight of white claret cells.

The capital botheration in leukemia is that adolescent white claret beef breed in the bloodstream, bottleneck out accustomed red and white cells. This causes astringent anemia and comprises the allowed system. But through a hormonal interaction, vitamins A and D assume to accomplish the adolescent beef abound up. Mature beef arise to stop their accelerated reproduction and are able to backpack out their immune-system functions.

Initially the alive anatomy of vitamin D was tested, but in top doses this has the adverse side-effect of causing the physique to absorb calcium. That could could could cause complications, including hardening of the basic organs and death. But the constructed adaptation of vitamin D has a added able crumbling access on leukemia beef – and a much-lowered calcium-loading mechanism. In studies on leukemia lab mice, this constructed admixture accomplished abundant bigger after-effects than authentic vitamin D. “Some of the mice advised with constructed D may in fact be convalescent of their leukemia,” letters H. Phillip Koeffler, M.D., assistant of anesthetic at UCLA and one of the arch advisers in this field.

Synthetic vitamin A has been activated in bodies adjoin leukemia, but not on a actual boundless scale. A few years ago, American advisers at several altered medical centers were complex in a double-blind, randomized balloon of 13-cisretinoic acerbic (a retinoid compound) in patients with a pre-leukemia action alleged myelodysplastic syndrome. Problems with the abstraction – including abounding patients abandonment the balloon – casting suspicion on the results, according to Dr. Koeffler.

One of the researchers, however, connected the abstraction on his own afterwards the balloon ended, and begin a cogent response. Was the aboriginal balloon too short? It’s harder to say afterwards attempts to alike those results. The abstraction aswell showed physicians that the side-effects of retinoid analysis dehydration can be bargain with doses of vitamin E.

More letters accept appear from added countries. Advisers in China and France accept reportedly accomplished able after-effects application auto retinoic acerbic (ATRA) adjoin astute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Most of the patients in Chinese studies went to remission. A French researcher has reportedly bifold their results.

Other analysis shows that of seven APL patients (from four altered studies) advised with isotretinoin, four had what was termed “remarkable responses.” Clearly, there’s abundant affirmation to accreditation added analysis on both constructed A and D.


Leucovorin is a constructed anatomy of the B vitamin folate. It’s accepting acclimated in in aggregate with a blight biologic alleged fluorouracil, frequently referred to as 5-FU. 5-FU/leucovorin is accepting acclimated adjoin several types of cancer.

By itself, 5-FU has been acclimated adjoin colon blight for added than 5 decades. It interferes with blight advance by bounden to an agitator bare for corpuscle reproduction. (Some blight beef carbon abundant faster than accustomed cells. That’s how some tumours abound in affiliation to surrounding tissue.)

Leucovorin, though, seems to strengthen the band amid 5-FU and the enzyme. The drug/vitamin aggregate authority assimilate the agitator for a best aeon than the biologic alone. Fewer chargeless enzymes agency slowed or chock-full tumour growth.

5-FU/leucovorin has bent its capability adjoin advanced, busted colon cancer. “That’s area we achievement to accept absolute appulse on the adaptation rates,” says Susan G. Arbuck, a analysis analyst at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, in New York.

5-FU/leucovorin is currently aswell accepting activated adjoin a array of added melignancies, including cancers of the stomach, breast, pancreas, arch and neck.


Colorectal polyps are simple to abolish but may recur. That prompted advisers at the Ludwig Institute for Blight Analysis in Canada to analysis the aftereffect of vitamin C and E on polyp recurrence.

Two hundred bodies who were chargeless of polyps afterwards anaplasty were breach into two groups. One was accustomed circadian supplements of 400 mg. of vitamin E. the added got bare look-alikes. Afterwards about two years, all the patients were arrested for polyp recurrence. The advisers acclaimed a slight abridgement in polyp ceremony a part of the patients accepting vitamins C and E. they fatigued that added studies should be performed to aphorism out the achievability that this was a adventitious finding.


Bladder polyps, which can become cancerous, are adequately simple to amusement by surgical removal. But there’s a 70 per cent accident of ceremony or that new polyps will form. To anticipate that, advisers at West Virginia University activated mega-doses of four vitamins as an accessory to accepted analysis afterwards float surgery.

Patients are accepting disconnected into two groups: Bodies in one accumulation yield assorted vitamins at the recommended circadian allowance levels; those in the added accumulation get the same, but with mega-doses of vitamins A, B6, C and E. vitamin B6 has been activated with acceptable after-effects in added basic blabber-cancer studies in humans. Vitamins A and C accept been approved adjoin babble blight in beastly studies, with aboriginal auspicious results. Vitamin E hasn’t been activated accurately adjoin float polyps before, but has apparent affiance in added blight trials.


A few years ago, a address from the British Columbia Blight analysis Center, in Vancouver, appear that Vitamin A could alleviate articulate leukoplakias (pre-cancerous sores central the mouth). The abstraction complex 21 bodies who bite betel leaves with tobacco and betel nut admixture accepted to could could cause an affluence of leukoplakias. Afterwards six months of demography vitamin A supplements, 57 per cent of the bodies showed no apparent disease. And none of the tobacco/betel chewers developed new sores while on the vitamin A. experts appraisal that commonly alone 5 per cent of such sores abandon on their own.

Now chat comes from the University of California Clinical Blight Center and the University of Arizona Blight Center that a milder anatomy of vitamin analysis has the aforementioned effect. Seventeen bodies with articulate leukoplakias were accustomed beta-carotene. Each being took 30 mg. of added beta-carotene per day for three months. Those whose leukoplakias responded to the analysis were kept on it for an added three months.

At the end of the study, two patients had complete absolution of their leukoplakias, and 12 others had fractional remission. Of the actual three, one showed no change and the added two got worse. Overall, that’s an 82 per cent absolute acknowledgment rate.

The agitative aspect of this abstraction is that beta-carotene, the safest antecedent of vitamin A, was so effective. Authentic vitamin A is baneful in top doses, and even the retinoids accept abhorrent side-effects (primarily derma problems). But beta-carotene is around problem-free, even in top doses. That’s because the physique converts alone as abundant beta-carotene into vitamin A as is bare at the moment. The balance is excreted harmlessly.


Several constructed forms of vitamin A, collectively alleged retinoids, accept been activated as treatments for derma cancers accepted as basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinoma. In several tests – just in the beginning date – articulate doses of retinoids accept been able adjoin these carcinomas because retinoids accrue primarily in the skin.

Most of the studies performed so far accept been small, but the after-effects are encouraging. These derma cancers, like all the others that retinoids accept been acclimated against, are absurd to backslide on their own. So advisers anticipate that even admitting their tests are basic and accept no ascendancy groups, the retinoids are apparently amenable for the absolute effects.

The retinoids etretinate and isotretinoin accept been acclimated to amusement basal-cell carcinoma. In three abstracted studies on a absolute of 56 people, 23 showed a fractional corruption of blight (the tumour shrank), and 5 showed complete corruption (disappeared). This is an all-embracing acknowledgment bulk of 50 per cent, acceptation that bisected the bodies accomplished some abatement in the bulk or admeasurement of tumours.

Retinoids accept aswell been activated adjoin cancerous melanoma, a added austere anatomy of derma cancer. Basic after-effects from a baby abstraction of 20 bodies with avant-garde melanoma showed some abbreviating of tumours in three people. It’s far from a cure, but it’s a blink of achievement adjoin a blazon of blight that has been aggressive to drugs.

A attenuate derma blight alleged mycosis fungoides had apparent acceptable acknowledgment to retinoid therapy. In 5 basic studies, a absolute 78 bodies with the ache were put on articulate isotretinoin. Added than bisected showed at atomic a fractional response.

Once analysis was completed, though, abounding of the cancers returned. This suggests that approved doses of retinoids may be appropriate for a “cure”. A part of added things, doctors are administering studies to actuate the best aliment dose: one that minimizes derma and mucous-membrane drying, the capital side-effect.

Researchers are accepting bigger luck application articulate retinoids adjoin squamous-cell carcinoma. In four baby studies, a absolute 14 squamous-cell patients were advised with etretinate (4 patients), isotretinoin (9), or arotinoid (1). Six of the 14 had fractional absolution (tumour bargain in size) or acting absolution (tumours shrank or chock-full growing for a abbreviate time); addition 4 had complete, abiding remissions of the squamous-cell tumours. That adds up to a 71 per cent acknowledgment om an absolutely baby sample.

Both basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas are almost simple to cure with surgical abatement (used in 90 per cent of cases), radiation analysis or tissue abolition with acute calefaction or cold. So, why all this fuss about retinoids?

Surgery and added tissue-destroying therapies leave scars. That’s not a big botheration for a being with one tumour on the aback of a hand. But a majority of bodies with blight accept several tumours on areas of physique that are consistently apparent to the tumour-inducing ultraviolet application of the sun: not alone the hands, but the arch and close as well.

Retinoids don’t leave scars: Tumours compress abroad and accustomed tissue fills in. That’s abnormally admired in avant-garde disease. “One accommodating had severe, disfiguring tumours on his close and nose. Afterwards six months on isotrtinoin, the close tumour had diminished to a small, collapsed lesion. And the adenoids tumour had diminished by 70 per cent, with basic rebuilding of his all-but-eroded nose,” explained Scott M. Lippman, M.D., of the hematology/oncology administration of M.D. Anderson Blight Center at the University of Texas.


Vitamin chemotherapy is a alluring idea: The ultimate ambition is an able accustomed blight analysis with no affliction and basal expense. But it’s not absolutely that simple – yet.

Scientists are traveling abounding bore to see if any of these treatments will about-face out to be effective. And even for the vitamins assuming the greatest potential, questions of dosage and side-effects have to be resolved.

Note, too, that several of the vitamin therapies don’t use authentic vitamins. Leucovorin and isotrtinoin are constructed actinic agnate of folate and vitamin A, respectively. Slight alterations in their allure accomplish them added able treatments and/or abate alarming side-effects apparent in top doses of the aboriginal vitamin. These constructed vitamins are altered abundant to be advised as drugs by the Food and Biologic Administration in the U.S. area they’re accessible by decree only.

Until scientists attach down the facts, the best advance is to go with what we know. Opt for the accurate medical treatments. Accept doubtable blight arrested by a physician. And try a acceptable defense: There’s able accurate affirmation that a advantageous diet can advice anticipate the alpha of assertive types of cancer. To use this affirmation to your fullest 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 acceptable amounts of beginning fruits and vegetables. If you’re on a belted diet – or charge added affirmation that you’re accepting the requisite bulk of vitamins and minerals – you may wish to accede demography a assorted supplement.