First Aid for Advanced Cancer
(or for anyone with cancer, at any stage)
Intravenous Vitamin C (IVC) therapy
If the medical profession has just told you that you have a short time to live, or have an “incurable” cancer such as pancreatic, liver, brain or lung cancer, where conventional systemic treatment is at best only palliative, there is a remarkable therapy you can try which is relatively simple and cheap, can be done at home, without side-effects, and which a number of MDs who use it claim has saved the lives of between 60% to 70% of terminal cancer patients, and which at the very least has been shown to halt or control the spread of cancer.
This therapy is high dose intravenous vitamin C. Intravenous vitamin C is not the same as oral vitamin C. By giving vitamin C intravenously doctors can achieve a blood saturation that is not at all comparable with that achieved by the oral route. The order of magnitude is something like 200%, as opposed to 2% saturation by the oral route.
This very high concentration of vitamin C is critical in terms of achieving a chemotherapeutic, cytotoxic – tumour cell destruction – effect. If it is feasible to have a Hickman line put in the patient, extraordinary doses of vitamin C – anything between 50g to 100g, depending on the malignancy of the cancer, – can be self-administered at home on a daily to weekly basis over a period of months, stepping down or up in frequency according to the individual response.
Otherwise this treatment can be administered on an out-patient basis, anywhere in the world. Its effects appear to be enhanced by weekly injections of large doses of vitamin B12, (hydroxycobalamin 1000 micrograms), which forms cobalt ascorbate, another benevolent non-toxic, but tumour cytotoxic, compound, or in combination with vitamin K (specifically vitamin K3, though K1 is also efficacious), and Lipoic Acid, (300mg oral, twice daily.) Lipoic Acid recycles the Vitamin C to keep the cytotoxic dose more constantly in the body for longer periods.
Counter indications to this approach are few. However they include anyone with kidney failure, or on dialysis, or with uncommon forms of iron overload. Responsible physicians should also screen for red blood cell glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, a rare condition whose presence can lead to haemolytic crisis involving red blood cell breakdown. The very large doses should also be built up to gradually over some days to establish good tolerance, starting at 15 grams for 1 or 2 sessions, then to 50 grams and, if necessary, to 100 grams. The exact dose is determined by the individual’s plasma saturation by Vitamin C immediately after an infusion.
WARNING: To avoid the well-documented Rebound Effect, which can lead to scurvy, this treatment should not be stopped abruptly. Patients should be gradually weaned off it over a period of weeks, or even months, and oral vitamin C therapy should continue indefinitely and on the days in between the IVC infusions.
The Riordan Clinic has pioneered IVC therapy over 30 years. When the Clinic’s cancer patients receive IVC, they report that their pain level goes down, and that they are better able to tolerate their chemotherapy. They bounce back quicker since the IVC reduces the toxicity of the chemotherapy and radiation without compromising their cancer cell killing effects. IVC is complementary to oncologic care. IVC is not “either/or” – it’s a good “both/and” proposition. IVC can help cancer patients withstand the effects of their traditional therapies, heal faster, be more resilient to infection, develop a better appetite, and remain more active overall. These things promote a better response to their cancer therapy.
For the IVC protocol, go to:
For the Riordan Clinic website, which is very comprehensive and where you will find many research articles and general information on IVC therapy, go to:
There are a number of other intravenous vitamin C practitioners throughout the world. The International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine can give you the name and address of your nearest orthomolecular physician worldwide. (Or see the Countries List in the Resource Section.) The Doctors and Organisations pages list a few English speaking practitioners, all M.D.s, who also offer excellent alternative and complementary, immunotherapeutic approaches to cancer. For maximum efficacy, they should follow Dr Riordan’s treatment protocol, available at the link above, and on request from the Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning:
Center For The Improvement Of Human Functioning
N. Hillside Avenue, 3100, Wichita, KS 67219, Kansas, U.S.A
Tel: 001 316 682 3100
Fax: 001 316 682 5054
Dr Damien Downing of Nutrition Associates Ltd, writes about Vitamin C as an anti-cancer therapy:
New research in the UK and the USA has shown that a combination of two forms of vitamin C, taken by mouth, can achieve the high blood levels thought necessary to have an anti-cancer effect, which we previously thought only possible with large intravenous doses. We have worked with the researchers to bring this to patients. Please be clear; there are as yet no clinical trials of this regime in cancer patients; it is not “evidence-based medicine” (there are two clinical trials of intravenous vitamin C going on at present, that we know about).
The use of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in cancer is the legacy of Linus Pauling, twice Nobel Prize winner, who with Abram Hoffer invented the term “orthomolecular” for therapies using molecules that are familiar to the body. In the 1970’s Pauling published, with Scottish surgeon Ewan Cameron, two studies [1,2] reporting that terminal cancer patients given 10 grams of vitamin C per day lived longer and had better quality of life. It is important to note that in these studies the vitamin C (intravenous at first, then oral) was used alongside surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Of the two studies at the Mayo Clinic [3,4] which have been claimed to refute the Pauling/Cameron hypothesis, one used vitamin C alone as the treatment, and the other gave it after chemotherapy had finished. At these doses (less than we use now), a major role for vitamin C will be supporting the immune system, and this is known to be damaged by chemotherapy. And Pauling and Cameron never recommended using vitamin C as the sole treatment; their papers referred to “supportive treatment”.
Pauling and Cameron also gave the vitamin C intravenously at first, unlike the Mayo studies. More recently, studies at the USA National Institutes of Health came to the conclusion that it was only possible to achieve the high blood levels of vitamin C necessary to kill cancer cells by giving it intravenously . But new research shows that it is possible to achieve these high blood levels by giving a combination of two forms of vitamin C by mouth –the “ordinary” water-soluble vitamin plus a new, liposomal (oil-based) form . The two forms appear to be absorbed into the body by different routes, adding up to give a much higher level.
Some numbers; the kidneys will try to conserve vitamin C so the blood level does not go below about 70uM/L (micromoles per litre), and a daily intake of around 200mg is all it takes to maintain this level, which was originally thought to be a “saturation” level. Large oral doses (of “ordinary” vitamin C) will bring the level to 200 to 250uM/L, and this was thought to be highest level that could be achieved, except by large intravenous injections. The new study showed that using high doses (20-36G/day) of the liposomal form of vitamin C alone could achieve levels of 300-400uM/L. Combining the two forms enabled the researchers to obtain levels of 400-600uM/L. Other studies have shown in vitro (in the laboratory, not in real life) that a level of 400uM/L will kill about 50% of cancer cells in 1 hour .
Intravenous vitamin C can easily achieve high levels such as this, but only transiently. What happens if, using the two oral forms, you can maintain that sort of level for days on end, not just for an hour? In the laboratory the anti-cancer effect keeps on working; in real life nobody has yet shown what happens. We can only speculate that perhaps the same thing happens.
There are several compounds that appear to work synergistically with vitamin C against cancer; the most practical one to use, in terms of dosage and cost, is lipoic acid . A new, demonstrably more potent form of this, known as R-lipoic acid, is now available. In vitro this reduced the level of vitamin C needed to achieve an anti-cancer effect by about a factor of five.
Interactions with chemo
Several researchers have suggested that antioxidant therapy (and vitamin C is classed as an antioxidant) may reduce the anti-cancer effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy; this has generally been well- reported in the media, much more so than studies showing the opposite. Also, many of the well-reported studies have been laboratory studies, not clinical research. The chemistry of this question is complex, but the bottom line, I believe, is provided by a review paper in 2007  which considered the 19 available controlled clinical trials and concluded; “None of the trials reported evidence of significant decreases in efficacy from anti-oxidant supplementation during chemotherapy. Many of the studies indicated that anti-oxidant supplementation resulted in either increased survival times, increased tumor responses, or both, as well as fewer toxicities than controls”. They did warn that “lack of adequate statistical power was a consistent limitation”, but nonetheless, a 19 out of 19 result is a strong finding.
There are two “buts”; the first is that there is some evidence that low doses of antioxidants given infrequently or just once before treatment may indeed protect cancer cells against chemotherapy , while high doses do not. This is counter-intuitive, and concerning — firstly because some doctors have advised patients to take only low doses of antioxidant nutrients, and secondly because 2⁄3 of cancer patients take supplements, and most of their doctors do not know they are doing so . You need the advice of a doctor experienced in this area.
The second issue concerns the B vitamin folic acid (folinic acid, methyltetrahydrofolate); there is evidence that this can increase the toxicity of certain anti-cancer agents, as well as a suggestion in the literature that supplements of this might increase the risk of developing cancer. Therefore we do not recommend it unless there are specific reasons why it is needed, and no reasons not to take it.
How does it work?
Although vitamin C is known as an antioxidant, the study from the NIH in the USA  revealed “an unanticipated role in cancer treatment”. They found that vitamin C produced hydrogen peroxide, a strong oxidant, within tumours, which selectively killed the cancerous cells. No peroxide was formed in normal cells, and they were not harmed. This was a laboratory study, of course, not a clinical trial, but it does seem to explain how vitamin C can attack cancer cells specifically.
The effect may be enhanced by the fact that cancer cells have a strong affinity for glucose (sugar), and have a large number of channels that allow glucose into the cell. Ascorbic acid is a similar molecule to glucose, and is in fact made from glucose by all those animals that can make their own, which doesn’t include humans. Vitamin C is taken up by those channels, leading to a higher concentration of vitamin C inside the cell. This also means that if sugars are around in your bloodstream in high quantities, they will get into the cancer cell instead of vitamin C. It is recommended that you avoid sugars as far as possible the whole time you are on the regime, and especially around the times that you take the vitamin C.
For the regime and other information, please view the files attached at the bottom of the page.
1. Cameron E, Pauling L. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: Prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1976;73(10):3685-89.
2. Cameron E, Pauling L. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: re-evaluation of prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1978; 75 (9): 4538-42.
3. Creagan ET, Moertel CG, O’Fallon JR, et al. Failure of high-dose vitamin C (ascorbic acid) therapy to benefit patients with advanced cancer. N Engl J Med. 1979;301(13):687-690.
4. Moertel CG, Fleming TR, Creagan ET, Rubin J, O’Connell MJ, Ames MM. High-dose vitamin C versus placebo in the treatment of patients with advanced cancer who have had no prior chemotherapy. A randomized double-blind comparison. N Engl J Med. 1985;312(3):137-141..
5. Padayatty SJ, Sun H, Wang Y, et al. Vitamin C pharmacokinetics: implications for oral and intravenous use. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(7):533-537.
6. Hickey S, Roberts HJ, Miller NJ. Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C. J Nutr Env Med 2008; 17(3): 169-177.
7. Chen Q, Espey MG, Krishna MC, Mitchell JB, Corpe CP, Buettner GR, Shacter E, Levine M. Pharmacologic ascorbic acid concentrations selectively kill cancer cells: action as a pro-drug to deliver hydrogen peroxide to tissues Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2005;102(38):13604–9.
8. Casciari JJ, Riordan NH, Schmidt TL, Meng XL, Jackson JA, Riordan HD. Cytotoxicity of ascorbate, lipoic acid, and other antioxidants in hollow fibre in vitro tumours. Br J Cancer 2001;84(11):1544–50. 5
9. Block KI, Koch AC, Mead MN, Tothy PK, Newman RA, Gyllenhaal C. Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic efficacy: A systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Cancer Treat Rev. 2007 Mar 14; [Epub ahead of print] 10. Prasad KN. Multiple dietary antioxidants enhance the efficacy of standard and experimental cancer therapies and decrease their toxicity. Integr Cancer Ther. 2004;3(4):310-22.
11. Velicer CM, Ulrich CM. Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Use Among US Adults After Cancer Diagnosis: A Systematic Review. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2008; 26 (4): 665-673
I am grateful to Steve Hickey and Hilary Roberts (see reference 7) for the development of the concepts that underpin this, and for demonstrating that high ascorbate levels could be achieved orally.