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High-dose vitamin C causes blood cancer stem cells to mature and die
Vitamin C has a number of positive effects in the body and also helps to fight off diseases. In a recent study, scientists have now shown that vitamin C can also be used against blood cancer (leukemia). High-dose vitamin C treatments can therefore cause the defective stem cell to die.
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), according to scientists at the "Perlmutter Cancer Center" (USA), is able to ripen and destroy faulty stem cells that would otherwise multiply and cause blood cancer. In high-dose injections of vitamin C, the spread of leukemia could be stopped in experiments on mice and the cancer cells could die, the researchers report. Her study results were published in the specialist magazine "Cell".
Impaired maturation of blood stem cells
The blood stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells) are indispensable for the constant post-production of white blood cells and therefore have to go through a certain maturation process. With certain forms of leukemia, however, this process is disturbed and the cells continue to multiply in an immature stage. The cause is a genetic change that leads to reduced production of the enzyme tet-methylcytosine dioxygenase 2 or TET2. This enzyme is needed by the blood stem cells to mature into white blood cells.
Defect involved in many diseases
“Changes in the genetic code or mutations that reduce TET2 function can be found in 10 percent of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), in 30 percent of those with a form of pre-leukemia called myelodysplastic syndrome and in almost 50 percent of patients chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, ”the researchers report. You may be able to get high-dose vitamin C treatment in the future.
Effects of vitamin C treatment examined
In genetically modified mice whose TET2 function was switched off, the research team led by Luisa Cimmino investigated whether the injection of a high dose of vitamin C could reactivate the normal TET2 function. In fact, they were able to determine that the vitamin C, the enzyme TET2, again makes a contribution to so-called DNA demethylation, so that they could mature into stem cells and the growth of leukemia cancer stem cells was suppressed. "We are thrilled with the prospect that high-dose vitamin C can provide a safe treatment for blood diseases caused by TET2-deficient leukemia stem cells," emphasizes co-study author Prof. Benjamin Neel.
Combination with other drugs
"Interestingly, we also found that vitamin C treatment had an impact on leukemic stem cells that damaged their DNA," continued study author Luisa Cimmino. For this reason, the next step is to combine vitamin C treatment with a so-called PARP inhibitor, which kills cancer cells by blocking the repair of DNA damage. This is already approved for the treatment of certain ovarian cancer diseases. All in all, vitamin C offers promising options for cancer therapy, the scientists conclude. However, injections with ascorbic acid always have to be assumed, since the required concentrations cannot be achieved through food consumption or oral intake. (fp)