(HealthDay News) — Intravenous ascorbate (vitamin C) seems beneficial in ovarian cancer, inducing cell death in vitro and reducing chemotherapy-associated toxicity in vivo, according to a study published in the Feb. 5 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Noting that recent studies have demonstrated that ascorbate may be involved in killing cancer cells, Yan Ma, PhD, from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and colleagues investigated downstream mechanisms of ascorbate-induced cell death. In addition, they examined the safety and toxicity of high-dose intravenous ascorbate in 22 patients with ovarian cancer in a phase 1/2a pilot trial.

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The researchers found that, in ovarian cancer cells, millimolar ascorbate acted as a pro-oxidant, induced DNA damage and reduced cellular adenosine triphosphate, activated the ataxia telangiectasia mutated/adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase pathway, inhibited mammalian target of rapamycin, and triggered ovarian cancer cell death. 

In mouse models, the combination of parenteral ascorbate with conventional chemotherapeutic agents carboplatin and paclitaxel inhibited ovarian cancer synergistically. In patients with ovarian cancer, the combination reduced chemotherapy-associated toxicity.

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“On the basis of its potential benefit and minimal toxicity, examination of intravenous ascorbate in combination with standard chemotherapy is justified in larger clinical trials,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Ma Y, Chapman J, Levine M, et al. High-Dose Parenteral Ascorbate Enhanced Chemosensitivity of Ovarian Cancer and Reduced Toxicity of Chemotherapy. Sci Transl Med. 2014;doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3007154.