A new study has indicated cancer treatment may be possible with a combined therapy of antibiotics along with a nontoxic agent like vitamin C. This novel strategy may pave the way to treat resistant or recurrent cancers.
Cancer Treatment with Antibiotic and Vitamin C
Researchers used combined therapy of doxycycline (an antibiotic) and vitamin C on cancer stem cells and found it was substantially more efficacious in killing these cells than a molecule called 2-DG. 2-DG is currently being investigated in clinical trials as an anti-cancer agent.
Scientists in the United Kingdom, led by Professor Michael Lisanti, reported these findings in the journal Oncotarget.
Similarities Between Stem Cells and Cancer Cells
Previous research has shown that cancerous cells are similar to stem cells in many ways. Stem cells have the ability to reproduce indefinitely and daughter cells can transform into specialized tissue types. Cancer cells act in a similar manner by replicating indefinitely to form and maintain tumors.
It is believed that cancer stem cells are the drivers of tumor formation, growth, spread, and recurrence. In patients with advanced tumors, cancer stem cells are thought to play a role in drug resistance. Scientific efforts have therefore been focused on methods of identifying and eradicating cancer stem cells, and the new research may have done just that.
Vitamin C and Cancer Cells
Professor Lisanti and his team conducted another study which revealed the efficacy of vitamin C in killing cancer stem cells. The new findings suggest that the cancer-cell killing ability of vitamin C is amplified by antibiotic doxycycline which is used to treat a number of infectious conditions such as pneumonia and acne. Doxycycline was administered to the cancer stem cells in incremental amounts over a period of three months. It is believed that the antibiotic forces the cancer cell to rely on only one source of energy (glucose) by inhibiting the cell’s ability to switch between energy sources. Interestingly, however, when vitamin C was added to the doxycycline, it delivered a second punch by inhibiting glycolysis and removing glucose from the tumor cells, thereby causing them to starve to death.
New Effective Cancer Therapy
Prior research has shown that compared to 2-DG, vitamin C is 10 times more effective in killing cancer stem cells. However, the new therapy with a combination of vitamin C and doxycycline is 100 times more effective. In addition to vitamin C, the team has identified a further eight compounds that can deliver a similar second punch when given in addition to doxycycline. The findings are exciting in terms of using non-toxic agents such as vitamin C to treat advanced cancers, prevent recurrence, and stop tumor spread and progression.