In my article “How Vitamin C Improves Health” I mentioned that a large intake of vitamin C has value in helping to control the common cold, influenza, hepatitis, schizophrenia, and other diseases. Only a brief mention was made of cancer. Interest in the prophylactic and therapeutic use of vitamin C against cancer is now so great as to justify a fuller discussion of this question. Despite the expenditure of billions of dollars on cancer research, there has been during the last 25 years essentially no decrease in the incidence of cancer or increase in the average time of survival after the patient is diagnosed as having cancer. There is now a real possibility that both the incidence and the average survival time can be significantly improved by use of vitamin C.
Our work in this field began about seven years ago, when I read the book Hyaluronidase and Cancer that had been written by Dr. Ewan Cameron and published in 1966. Dr Cameron, who was Consultant Surgeon (now Chief Consultant Surgeon) in Vale of Leven Hospital, Loch Lomondside, Scotland, advanced the thesis that the most important factor in determining the incidence, progress, and outcome of cancer is the effectiveness of the natural protective mechanisms of the human body and that a considerable control over cancer might be achieved if we could find some way of stimulating our natural protective mechanisms to greater effectiveness. Over a period of years he searched for such a treatment, but without success. He had emphasized the possibility of strengthening the intercellular cement and thus making the normal tissues stronger and more resistant to infiltration by a malignant tumor. In 1971, I pointed out that the intercellular cement is strengthened by the presence in it of fibrils of the protein collagen, which act like the steel rods in reinforced concrete, and that an increased intake of vitamin C should result in the synthesis of more collagen fibrils and the consequent strengthening of the normal tissues.
We now know that vitamin C also makes the immune mechanisms of the body more effective. Dr. Cameron (who soon became a Non-resident Fellow of our Institute) wrote to me in 1971, asking how much vitamin C should be given to the patients. My answer, 10 grams per day, was largely based on the fact that most animals manufacture about this amount (calculated to the body weight of a human being); it is unlikely that the animals would make this amount if it were not needed to keep them in good health. Clinical trials were cautiously begun by Cameron with patients with terminal cancer in Vale of Leven Hospital in November 1971, usually with 10 grams of sodium ascorbate per day, administered intravenously for the first ten days and by mouth thereafter. Over 500 patients with terminal cancer have been placed on ascorbate therapy. The results obtained are so promising that nearly all the cancer patients who come to Vale of Leven Hospital now receive the vitamin, as do also many of the cancer patients of other doctors in the neighboring regions. A few physicians in the United States have also begun use of vitamin C with cancer patients. The value of vitamin C for patients with advanced cancer is indicated by the results of a study of the first 100 patients with “untreatable” cancer who received ascorbate, usually 10 grams per day, in comparison with 1000 controls, 10 for each ascorbate-treated patient, matched for sex, age, and type of cancer, who also had been pronounced untreatable and who did not receive ascorbate (Cameron and Pauling. “Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer. I. Prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 73, 3685-3689 (1976)). At the time this report was written 16 of the ascorbate-treated patients were still alive, whereas all of the controls had died. Now, one year later, 13 of these “hopeless” patients are still alive, some as long as five years after having been pronounced untreatable, and most of them are in such good apparent health as to suggest that they now have normal life expectancy. Moreover, the ascorbate-treated patients who died had survival times, after being pronounced untreatable, several times those of their matched controls, and enjoyed better general health during the final months of their lives. As much as 50 grams of vitamin C per day has been administered, both intravenously and orally, to patients with advanced cancer, and there is some evidence that the larger intakes are considerably more effective than the intake of 10 grams per day. The present evidence indicates that vitamin C is effective against all kinds of cancer, but, of course, its effectiveness may be greater for some than for others.
Many studies will have to be carried out to find the answers to the various important questions about vitamin C and cancer. Our work and that of our Non-resident Fellow Dr. Cameron in this field has been carried out with the aid of grants from the Educational Foundation of America, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Hoffmann-La Roche Company, and private donors. Our applications to the National Cancer Institute have been unsuccessful and the American Cancer Society has shown a lack of interest in our work. It is my opinion that the discovery of the value of large doses of vitamin C may before long will be recognized as constituting the most important contribution to the control of cancer that has been made during the last 25 years.
by Linus Pauling
(Reprinted from the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine
Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 2)