How can intravenous vitamin C help you? What the research says - CancerChoices



Vitamin C can be given intravenously to achieve much higher blood levels and enhance its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, with limited evidence of improved cancer survival when used with conventional treatments.

How can intravenous vitamin C help you? What the research says

We summarize the clinical evidence for each medical benefit here. We begin with our assessment of the strength of evidence within each category, followed by a brief summary of individual studies or reviews of several studies. In assessing the strength of evidence, we consider the study design, number of participants, and the size of the treatment effect (how much outcomes changed with treatment).

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Improving treatment outcomes

Is intravenous vitamin C linked to improved survival? Is it linked to less cancer growth or metastasis? Does it enhance the anticancer action of other treatments or therapies? We present the evidence.

Advanced cancer

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of longer survival among radiotherapy-resistant people with bone metastases treated with intravenous ascorbic acid

No evidenceoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to the effect described of an objective anticancer response among people with advanced cancer as a whole treated with intravenous vitamin C, whether with or without chemotherapy, in small uncontrolled trialsa study in which a therapy is used, but without a comparison group against which to judge outcomes; an uncontrolled trial is considered a weak study design

No evidence of antitumor responses among people with advanced solid tumors refractory to standard therapy treated with intravenous ascorbic acid in a small uncontrolled trial

Preliminary evidence of longer survival after chemotherapy among women with advanced breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better progression-free survivalthe time during and after treatment of a disease that a patient lives without disease progression (worsening), and especially among people with RAS mutation, among people with metastatic colorectal cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Weak evidence of regression of metastatic renal cancer among women treated with intravenous vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of higher objective response ratepercentage of patients whose disease decreased after treatment to carboplatin and paclitaxel among people with chemotherapy-naïve advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated with intravenous ascorbate

Weak evidence of tumor response and stable disease among people with advanced basal cell carcinoma treated with intravenous ascorbic acid

Weak evidence of less progression and better survival, whether after radiotherapy or chemotherapy or without other treatments, among people with advanced pancreatic cancer treated with intravenous ascorbic acid

No evidence of anticancer effectsoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to a measurable anticancer effect among people with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer treated with infusions of ascorbic acid in an uncontrolled trial

Brain and nervous system cancer

Weak evidence of stabilization and regression of tumors in a 5-year-old child diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 and optic pathway tumor treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C

Leukemia

Preliminary evidence of substantially higher rate of complete remission and longer overall survival after chemotherapy among elderly people with acute myeloid leukemia treated with low-dose intravenous vitamin C

Multiple myeloma

Weak evidence of tumor response to carfilzomib-lenalidomide-dexamethasone treatment among people with relapsed refractory multiple myeloma who had not responded after the second cycle when also treated with intravenous ascorbic acid

Intravenous vitamin C combined with other therapies

Weak evidence of responses and survival better than expected among people with advanced colorectal, stomach, or pancreatic cancer treated with intravenous ascorbic acid along with chemotherapy

Preliminary evidence of better survival among people with refractory advanced non-small-cell lung cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C concurrent with modulated electrohyperthermia

Weak evidence of tumor response among people with cancer treated with intravenous arsenic trioxide and ascorbic acid, either with or without chemotherapy

Weak evidence of tumor response among people with advanced multiple myeloma treated with intravenous arsenic trioxide, ascorbic acid, and melphalan

Weak evidence of response among people with advanced advanced multiple myeloma treated with oral dexamethasone and intravenous arsenic trioxide and ascorbic acid

Weak evidence of tumor response in a person with glioma treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C and endolaser therapy

No evidence of a responseoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to a measurable response among the first 10 people with advanced melanoma treated with intravenous arsenic trioxide, ascorbic acid, and temozolomide in a small study

Weak evidence of good health and wellness among people with cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C and an assortment of other supplements and medications

Weak evidence of normalization of CA-125 levels and no evidence of recurrence after cytoreduction surgery among 2 women with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer treated with oral vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q-10, and a multivitamin/mineral complex, plus intravenous vitamin C in addition to chemotherapy

Preliminary evidence of longer overall survival after chemotherapy among people with small-cell lung cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C combined with alkalization therapy

Optimizing your body terrain

Does intravenous vitamin C promote an environment within your body that is less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread? We present the evidence.

See Optimizing Your Body Terrain ›

Find medical professionals who specialize in managing body terrain factors: Finding Integrative Oncologists and Other Practitioners ›

Bleeding and coagulation imbalance

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of lower markers associated with sepsis-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome and hypercoagulation among people with sepsis-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (not specific to cancer) treated with intravenous vitamin C

Immune function

Increased immune system activation is not always beneficial, so your oncology team needs to determine whether immune activation would be favorable in your situation.

Preliminary evidence of higher markers of immune activation after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation among people with blood (hematologic) cancer treated with 20 g intravenous vitamin C, but no evidence of an effectoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to an expected outcome; this does not always mean that there is no effect in clinical practice, but that the studies may have been underpowered (too few participants) or poorly designed. Larger, well-designed studies provide more confidence in making assessments. with 70 mg vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of higher total white blood cell (lymphocyte) counts among people with cancer and low lymphocyte counts (lymphopenia) treated with intravenous vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of some higher markers of immune function among people with septic shock (not specific to cancer) treated with intravenous vitamin C

Inflammation

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of lower markers of inflammation among people with cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of a smaller rise in a marker of inflammation after atrial fibrillation ablation (not specific to cancer) among people treated with intravenous ascorbic acid

No evidence of an effectoverall, one or more studies did not demonstrate that a treatment or intervention led to an expected outcome; this does not always mean that there is no effect in clinical practice, but that the studies may have been underpowered (too few participants) or poorly designed. Larger, well-designed studies provide more confidence in making assessments. on inflammation among people with sepsis (not specific to cancer) treated with intravenous vitamin C

Oxidative stress

Modest evidence of lower markers of oxidative stressan imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body in which antioxidant levels are lower than normal; this imbalance can cause harmful oxidation reactions in your body chemistry during surgery or a mentally stressful task among people treated with intravenous vitamin C (not specific to cancer)

Weak evidence of less peroxidative plasma damage among people with cancer treated with intravenous ascorbic acid

Intravenous vitamin C combined with other therapies

Preliminary evidence of higher urine pH after chemotherapy among people with small-cell lung cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C combined with alkalization therapy

Preliminary evidence of higher peak concentrations of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) among people with stage 3–4 non-small cell lung cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C (IVAA) simultaneously with modulated electrohyperthermia

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

Is intravenous vitamin C linked to fewer or less severe side effects or symptoms? Is it linked to less toxicity from cancer treatment? Does it support your quality of life or promote general well-being? We present the evidence.

Side effects as a whole

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less toxicity from paclitaxel/carboplatin treatment among people with ovarian cancer treated with high-dose intravenous ascorbate

Blood-related side effects

Preliminary evidence of fewer blood-related side effects, including bleeding or bruising, anemia, leukopeniaan abnormally low number of white cells in the blood, leading to increased susceptibility to infection, or thrombocytopeniaan abnormally low number of platelets in the blood, which may cause easy bruising and excessive bleeding from wounds or bleeding in mucous membranes and other tissues, among people, mostly with breast cancer, treated with intravenous vitamin C

Cardiovascular symptoms

Preliminary evidence of lower blood pressure among normotensive people with infection, cancer, or fatigue treated with intravenous vitamin C (not exclusive to cancer)

Changes in appetite

Modest evidencesignificant effects in at least three small but well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), or one or more well-designed, mid-sized clinical studies of reasonably good quality (RCTs or observational studies), or several small studies aggregated into a meta-analysis (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less loss of appetite during standard cancer treatment among women with breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Cognitive difficulties

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better cognitive functioning among people with cancer treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C

Depression or mood

Preliminary evidence of less depression among people with cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Fatigue

Modest evidence of less fatigue during conventional cancer treatment among people with cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Gastrointestinal symptoms

Modest evidence of less nausea during standard cancer treatment among women with breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of less nausea, vomiting, constipation, and liver dysfunction during chemotherapy among women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Weak evidence of less constipation among people with cancer treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C

Hair loss

Preliminary evidence of less hair loss during chemotherapy among women with advanced breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Neuropathy and other neurological symptoms

Preliminary evidence of less peripheral neurotoxicity during chemotherapy among women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of less dizziness during standard tumor therapy among women with breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Pain

Modest evidence of less pain during or after cancer treatment among people with cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Quality of life and physical function

Preliminary evidence of higher quality of life and improved physical and role function during or after cancer treatment among people with cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Skin and tissue symptoms

Preliminary evidence of less rash during chemotherapy among women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Sleep disruption

Modest evidence of less insomnia during standard cancer treatment among people with cancer, mostly breast cancer, treated with intravenous vitamin C

Other side effects

Preliminary evidence of less kidney dysfunction during chemotherapy among women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C

Symptoms not specific to cancer

Preliminary evidence of higher systemic vascular resistance after heart surgery among people treated with vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of less cardiac injury among people with COVID-19 and cardiac injury treated with high-dose intravenous vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of less fatigue among office workers treated with intravenous vitamin C (not specific to cancer)

Insufficient (conflicting) evidencepreclinical evidence only OR clinical studies with such poor or unclear methodology that no conclusion can be drawn OR conflicting findings across clinical studies with no preponderance of evidence in one direction; conflicting evidence occurs when studies find conflicting effects (positive effect vs no effect or negative effect) with the same treatment and the same general study population (same cancer type, for example) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of an effect on pain after surgery among people treated with intravenous vitamin C (not specific to cancer)

Good evidencesignificant effects in one large or several mid-sized and well-designed clinical studies (randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with an appropriate placebo or other strong comparison control or observational studies that control for confounds) (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better SOFA scores, which are the sum of respiratory status, liver function, renal function, coagulation function, circulatory status, and nervous system scores, among people with sepsis treated with IV vitamin C (not specific to cancer)

Intravenous vitamin C combined with other therapies

Weak evidence of better scores for quality of life and function (physical, cognitive, emotional, and role function), less appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, pain, and fatigue among people with terminal cancer treated with both intravenous and oral vitamin C

Preliminary evidence of better quality of life among people with refractory advanced (stage 3b or 4) non-small-cell lung cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C concurrent with modulated electrohyperthermia

Weak evidence of higher functioning among people with stage 3–4 non-small cell lung cancer treated with intravenous vitamin C (IVAA) and modulated electrohyperthermia

Weak evidence of normalized serum creatinine levels—a marker of kidney function—during cancer treatment among people with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma treated with oral melphalan and intravenous arsenic trioxide and ascorbic acid

Reducing cancer risk

Is intravenous vitamin C linked to lower risks of developing cancer or of recurrence? We present the evidence.

Vitamin C combined with other therapies

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of a response among people with a deficiency of homologous recombination repair system (dHRR, a condition that is a risk factor for cancer) treated with intravenous vitamin C and PARP inhibitors

Weak evidence of no recurrence after cytoreduction surgery among 2 women with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer treated with oral vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q-10, and a multivitamin/mineral complex, plus intravenous vitamin C in addition to chemotherapy

Keep reading about intravenous vitamin C

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: April 12, 2024

Last full literature review: January 2023

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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