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#168 : Professor Margreet Vissers

Vitamin C for Cancer Treatment

Vitamin C For Cancer Treatment with Professor Margreet Vissers

The battle against cancer has been ongoing for hundreds of years now. But recently, interest in using vitamin C to improve outcomes for cancer patients has been growing. And the results of these various studies look promising.

Biochemist and medical researcher Professor Margreet Vissers joins us in this episode to explain her current research on vitamin C and how it helps the immune system fight cancer. She also talks about the other health benefits of vitamin C, as well as some of its limitations.

Is vitamin C the cancer treatment we’ve been looking for all along? Tune in to find out. 

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  • You will learn about vitamin C’s role in controlling tumours.
  • Discover how humans metabolise vitamin C differently from other animals.
  • Know how intravenous vitamin C turned around a leukaemia patient’s relapse.


  • Watch Professor Margreet Vissers' lecture on her work on vitamin C.
  • “The power of C” on University of Otago Magazine
  • Das, A. B., Kakadia, P. M., Wojcik, D., Pemberton, L., Browett, P. J., Bohlander, S. K., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2019). Clinical remission following ascorbate treatment in a case of acute myeloid leukemia with mutations in TET2 and WT1. Blood Cancer Journal, 9, 82. doi: 10.1038/s41408-019-0242-4
  • Vissers, M. C. M., & Das, A. B. (2018). Potential mechanisms of action for vitamin C in cancer: Reviewing the evidence. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 809. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00809
  • Ang, A., Pullar, J. M., Currie, M. J., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2018). Vitamin C and immune cell function in inflammation and cancer. Biochemical Society Transactions, 46, 1147–1159. doi: 10.1042/bst20180169
  • Carr, A. C., Vissers, M. C. M., & Cook, J. S. (2015). Parenteral vitamin C relieves chronic fatigue and pain in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis and mononeuritis multiplex secondary to CNS vasculitis. Case Reports in Clinical Pathology, 2(2), 57–61. doi: 10.5430/crcp.v2n2p57
  • Dachs, G. U., Munn, D. G., Carr, A. C., Vissers, M. C. M., & Robinson, B. A. (2014). Consumption of vitamin C is below recommended daily intake in many cancer patients and healthy volunteers in Christchurch. New Zealand Medical Journal, 127(1390). Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal
  • Carr, A. C., Vissers, M. C. M., & Cook, J. (2014). Parenteral vitamin C for palliative care of terminal cancer patients. New Zealand Medical Journal, 127(1396). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal
  • Carr, A. C., Vissers, M. C. M., & Cook, J. (2014). Relief from cancer chemotherapy side effects with pharmacologic vitamin C. New Zealand Medical Journal, 127(1388). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal
  • Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2013). Vitamin C supplementation and kidney stone risk. New Zealand Medical Journal, 126(1384). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal
  • Carr, A. C., Pullar, J. M., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2013). Beating the blues: The association between fruit and vegetable intake and improved mood. New Zealand Medical Journal, 126(1384). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal
  • Carr, A. C., Vissers, M. C. M., Lewis, J., & Elder, P. (2012). Multiple nutrient insufficiencies: Hypovitaminosis D and C in young adult New Zealand males. New Zealand Medical Journal, 125(1364). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal
  • Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2012). Good nutrition matters: Hypovitaminosis C associated with depressed mood and poor wound healing. New Zealand Medical Journal, 125(1362). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Episode Highlights

[04:50] Vitamin C and White Blood Cells

  • After killing bacteria, white blood cells destroy themselves so that the toxicity doesn’t spill into tissues.
  • Vitamin C plays a role in regulating the cell death pathway.
  • Margreet observed that white blood cells low in vitamin C did not go to resolve the end of the infection.

[07:15] How Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs) Work

  • NETs are a variation of vitamin C’s mechanism.
  • Neutrophils are cells attracted to infection and eat hundreds of bacteria. They have oxidants that kill bacteria.
  • Neutrophils eject ‘niche’ or the DNA package inside them. The niche has microbicidal proteins. The niche forms ‘traps’ that localise bacteria on the site of infection.

[13:18] Vitamin C Production in Animals

  • All animals make their vitamin C mostly in the liver; some produce the vitamin in the kidney. Animals that can make vitamin C do it on demand. They can increase production a hundred times to keep blood levels saturated.
  • Humans lost the gene to make vitamin C; thus, we are dependent on food for supply. When we are sick or infected, our body consumes vitamin C fast. If we do not replenish our vitamin C, our body levels will decline.

[16:35] Route of Vitamin C Administration

  • Plasma vitamin C levels go up to a maximum level of 100 micromolars.
  • Kidneys filter and regulate vitamin C. Saturated tissues will not absorb any more vitamin C; the excess will be released in the urine.
  • Oral intake is suitable for day to day intake while people with severe illnesses will need infusion.
  • Vitamin C infusion results in high plasma levels for a short period. Any excess will pass, and the plasma levels will be back to normal in 8 or 9 hours.

[22:01] Function of Vitamin C

  • The enzyme needed to produce collagen needs vitamin C; thus, the vitamin is good for the skin.
  • It plays various roles in inflammation, wound healing, controlling infection, and even brain function.
  • Vitamin C regulates gene expression.
  • Vitamin C supports the production of serotonin, as well as other hormones that regulate mood and reproduction.

[27:48] What Vitamin C Dosages Do We Need?

  • The Ministry of Health recommends 200 milligrammes a day for wellness.
  • Foods high in vitamin C, such as kiwi fruit, capsicum, and broccoli, are recommended. But only a few people eat a good range of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Margreet says if the aim of vitamin C intake is to alleviate illness, it is usually not achievable through our daily diet.
  • Each condition requires a different recommended intake.

[34:17] The Role of HIF Protein in Cancer

  • Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is a transcription factor protein that switches genes on and off.
  • HIF is present in all cells at all times and responds to low levels of oxygen.
  • Under low oxygen levels, areas with poor blood vessels are provided with oxygen by generating new blood vessels.
  • Cancer cells hijack this mechanism to have their supply of blood vessels, making the cells grow more.
  • Hijacking the HIF protein also results in switching the cancer’s energy source to sugar.

[39:06] The Role of Vitamin C for Cancer

  • The HIF proteins need to be shut off to prevent cancer from worsening.
  • Enzymes that need vitamin C can switch off HIF proteins that need to be shut down, slowing down the tumour’s growth rate.
  • Though it is tough to prove preventive action, many cancer rates have significantly decreased to half when vitamin C status is good.
  • To maintain your well-being, keep vitamin C levels at optimum levels.

[45:07] Does Vitamin C Pose Any Risk?

  • Vitamin C’s oxidation products need to be cleared out of the body.
  • No toxic dose has been identified, provided you have good kidney function.
  • There is no actual risk of kidney stone formation and kidney injury.
  • People getting an infusion must be tested for kidney function.

[49:10] IV vs Oral Administration: Vitamin C for Cancer

  • Any amount of oral vitamin C has not shown potential to benefit solid tumours.
  • Infusion is more advantageous than oral administration because it gets vitamin C to the core of the cancer to switch HIF protein off.
  • Margreet shares the story of Anton Kuria, a previous leukaemia patient on IV vitamin C who experienced remission for two years.
  • Vitamin C restored the normal functioning of the cells and wiped out most of the cancer cells.
  • He relapsed not because he stopped vitamin C but because the cancer cells acquired new mutations.

[59:30] How Vitamin C Contributes to Quality of Life

  • Vitamin C regulates adrenaline and boosts energy because it is key to making molecules that help energy production.
  • It also alleviates the side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Vitamin C also improves brain fog, concentration, mood, pain, nausea and fatigue.
  • It does not interfere with other cancer treatments.

[1:06:02] Applications in the Clinical Setting

  • Vitamin C is probably not going to kill cancer, but it can control it.
  • Vitamin C gives an insight on how to manage the disease in the clinic.
  • The excellent response to vitamin C is an opportunity to make it work better with other treatments.
  • There will almost certainly be a quality of life benefit. It can alleviate the side effects of cancer and the disease itself.
  • The beneficial effects manifest, so it is worth doing.

[1:16:56] What Needs to Be Done?

  • We need to figure out how to apply vitamin C clinically and under specific circumstances.
  • Give people the best information so that they can make the right choices.
  • With better information, clinicians can also make informed choices for the benefit of their patients.

7 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

‘All of these things that cancers do to promote their survival is mediated by this response, and right at the center of this is the vitamin C off switch’.

‘Vitamin C is a very labile molecule, so very easily lost. And if you're not putting in more supply, then your body level is going to drop’.

‘If there's any wealthy people sitting out there, if you want to support this sort of research — it is absolutely essential because we're losing people left, right and center to these horrible diseases like cancer, like sepsis’.

‘I'm excited about this research, I really am, because it's going to save lives’.

‘That's why we try to do the research — because doctors have the patient's best interests at heart’.

‘Our clinical people, they’re at the coalface, and they're having to make life and choice decisions for their patients all the time’.

‘Many cancer rates significantly decreased by up to half for a number of cancers if your vitamin C status is good rather than bad’.

About Professor Vissers

Professor Margreet Vissers is a biochemistry academic from Waikato University and is currently the Principal Investigator and Associate Dean (Research) at the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has written and published journals and books about how vitamin C can help cure and prevent cancer.

If you want to learn more about oxidative medicine from Professor Vissers, you may contact her at margreet.vissers@otago.ac.nz.

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