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© 2017 by Injection & Infusion Clinic of ABQ (A private practice)

This information is designed for educational purposes only and is not provided as a professional service or medical advice for specific patients. It is not a substitute for professional medical care, and if you have, or suspect you may have, a health problem you should consult your helathcare provider. 

High IV Vitamin C as Adjunct Cancer Treatment

December 18, 2019

Multiple studies have been conducted to better understand the differences in how oral and intravenous vitamin C administration affects the human body – more specifically, in patients with cancer.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is essential to the human body. It is required for numerous bodily functions including:

  • Strengthening the immune system

  • Acting as an antioxidant – which protects cells from being damaged by free radicals

  • Helping collagen production – which is a necessary protein in the healing process

Research has shown vitamin C deficiency is relatively common in cancer patients. Some causes associated with low vitamin C levels include low dietary intake, high CRP level, and high platelet count.

Studies involving oral administration of vitamin C have been unsuccessful in demonstrating any benefit in addressing cancer. Additionally, administrating high-dose ORAL vitamin C has adverse effects such as loose stool, or diarrhea.

Because the body limits plasma vitamin C levels from exceeding a certain point via oral consumption, oral administration of vitamin C affects the body differently than intravenous (IV) administration.


Intravenous Vitamin C

Commonly used as an adjunct therapy in treating cancer, IV vitamin C has demonstrated diverse effects in the body – the results depend on the dosage levels. Let’s take a closer look at the different effects associated with low doses and high doses:



Low Dose IV Vitamin C Effects

  • 1 gram or less

  • Well-tolerated alongside trioxide-based arsenic chemotherapy regimens

Unfortunately, very few concrete results have been demonstrated by low dose vitamin C trials due to uncontrolled studies.

High Dose IV Vitamin C Effects

  • Antitumor properties

  • Chemo-sensitizing properties

  • Significant hydrogen peroxide production in tumors – this creates oxidative stress which selectively targets cancer cells

  • Stimulates the 2-OGDD (2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase) enzyme family – including the hydroxylases that control the hypoxic response (an important driver of tumor continuation)

Some adverse treatment effects of high dose IV vitamin C therapy include:

  • Mild headaches (more common)

  • Nausea (more common)

  • Insomnia

  • Hypertension

  • Decreased appetite

  • Abnormal urine color

  • Edema

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

  • Hyperglycemia

  • Dry mouth/skin

Studies and Trials

In vivo trials exhibit vitamin C’s efficacy in addressing cancer/cancer-related symptomatology and pathology. Here are some results from studies conducted on patients with various forms of cancer:

Patients with Tumors

These patients had a variety of tumors including liver, pancreatic, breast, skin, lung, and colorectal.

  • Treatment – dose-escalation design – 50 > 70 > 90 > 110g – of IV vitamin C four times a week for four weeks

  • Results – quality of life (as measured by EORTC QLQ-C30, or the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire-Cancer) remained stable for the initial two weeks and improved over the following two weeks

Stages III to IV Ovarian Cancer Patients

These patients had undergone debulking surgery.

  • Treatment – IV vitamin C two times weekly for six months (with chemo) and for six more months (post-chemo)

  • Results – FIVE FOLD FEWER adverse effects, including infection, myelosuppression, neurotoxicity, pancreatic/hepatobiliary toxicity, and toxicities of the pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and renal systems

Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer Patients

  • Treatment – dose-escalation design – 50 > 75 > 100g – of IV vitamin C three times per week for eight weeks (also receiving erlotinib and gemcitabine)

  • Results – tumor mass reductions from 10% to 42%

Terminally Ill Cancer Patients

  • Treatment – 10g of vitamin C two times with a three-day interval and an oral intake of 4g a day for one week

  • Results – (quality of life evaluated using the EORTC QLQ-C30) global health score improvements from 36±18 to 55±16 – patients reported improvement in pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea

This trial was of short duration and uncontrolled by yielded findings that suggest IV vitamin C may be an effective (and safe) therapy for improving the quality of life in terminally ill cancer patients.


Though administering vitamin C orally may not be largely beneficial when addressing cancer, IV administration appears to be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Improves quality of life

  • Reduces tumor size

  • Improves chemotherapy and disease-related adverse effects – in many forms of cancer




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