Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 21st 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Monday, August 21, 2017
Injections of vitamin C could be a way to help
fight blood cancer. Experiments in mice suggest
that the nutrient helps tell out-of-control cells
to stop dividing and die.
Some blood cancers, including acute and chronic
leukaemia, often involve mutations affecting a gene
called TET2. This gene usually helps ensure that a type
of stem cell matures properly to make white blood cells,
and then eventually dies. But when TET2 mutates,
these cells can start dividing uncontrollably, leading
to cancer. Mutations in TET2 are involved in around
42,500 cancers in the US a year.
Luisa Cimmino and Benjamin Neel at the New York
University School of Medicine and their colleagues
have genetically engineered mice to have variable TET2
function. They found that a 50 per cent reduction in
TET2 activity can be enough to induce cancer, but
that TET2 activity needs to remain low if the disease
is to continue developing. "If we genetically restore
TET2, it blocks unhealthy replication and kills the
cells," says Cimmino.
Next, the team turned to vitamin C, because it is
known to have an effect in embryonic stem cells, where
it can activate TET2 and help keep cell replication
The team injected mice with low TET2 activity
with very high doses of vitamin C every day for 24
weeks and found that it slowed the progression of
leukaemia. By the end of this period, a control group
that got no injections had three times as many white
blood cells ---a sign of pre-leukaemia. When the team
exposed human leukaemia cells in a dish to a cancer
drug, they found they got better results when they
added vitamin C.
Neel hopes that high doses of vitamin C will even-
tually be incorporated into cancer therapies. (New
People who choose alternative medicine over
conventional treatment for their cancer are more
likely to die from the disease.
That's what Skyler Johnson and his colleagues at
Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut found when
they looked at treatment and survival records from
the US National Cancer Database.
The team identified 281 people with breast, prostate,
lung and colorectal cancer who had opted for unproven
treatments, shunning conventional approaches such
as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
Johnson doesn't know what alternative treatments
these people took, but has seen many of his own pa-
tients opt for a wide range of therapies. "They could
be herbs, botanicals, homeopathy, special diets or
energy crystals, which are basically just stones that
people believe have healing powers," he says.
The team then compared the health outcomes of
these people with 560 others who were similar to
them in terms of age, race and disease, but instead
underwent conventional treatment.
They found that people who took alternative medi-
cine were two and half times more likely to die within
five years of diagnosis. This is a low estimate, says
Johnson, skewed by the fact that prostate cancer,
for example, takes longer than that to develop into
a life-threatening disease.
Among those with breast cancer, people taking al-
ternative remedies were 5.68 times more likely to die
within five years. While 41 per cent of those receiving
conventional treatment for lung cancer survived for
at least five years, only 20 per cent of those who opted
out of such treatment did.
And only 33 per cent of people using alternative
medicine for colorectal cancer survived the next five
years, compared to 79 per cent of those on conven-
The reason some people on alternative treatments
survive is probably because many eventually seek out
conventional treatment, often once their disease has
progressed, says Johnson. Such secondary treatments
were not recorded in the database.
John Bridgewater, an oncologist at University Col-
lege London Hospital, is not surprised by the find-
ings. "Many patients will often go on special diets,
rather than having conventional treatment," he says.
"But we have no evidence that anyone benefits from
these diets, apart from those that collect the fees."
Homeopathy isn't much help.
Vitamin C helps genes
to kill off cells that
would cause cancer
Choosing alternative cancer
treatment doubles risk of death
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