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Cancer tumors shown to consume large amounts of vitamin C

Researchers are cautious about cancer patients taking vitamin C supplements

New York, September 15 - Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have found that cancer tumors consume large amounts of vitamin C. Their findings, which are reported in the September 15 issue of Cancer Research, may shed new light on the nutritional needs of tumors.

"This study is the first to demonstrate exactly how cancer cells acquire large quantities of vitamin C," said Dr. David Golde, senior author of the study and Physician-in-Chief of Memorial Hospital.

Although the role that vitamin C plays in tumors is not yet known, recent studies have shown that there may be possible interactions between dietary antioxidants and chemotherapy treatment. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that consumes free radicals - or toxic substances in the body that can also be generated from chemotherapy agents to destroy cancer cells.

"It's possible that taking large amounts of vitamin C could interfere with the effects of chemotherapy or even radiation therapy, since these therapies often kill cells in part by using oxidative mechanisms. It's conceivable then, that vitamin C might make cancer treatment less effective and therefore, reasonable that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy should avoid taking large amounts of this vitamin," said Dr. Golde.

Earlier research by Dr. Golde and his colleagues had established that specific glucose transporter molecules were responsible for transporting vitamin C into cells. This process occurs when vitamin C, which is used by cells in the form of ascorbic acid, is converted into the form of dehydroascorbic acid and transported into the cell. Once inside, the vitamin is converted back to ascorbic acid.

This discovery prompted Dr. Golde's team to explore whether glucose transporter molecules and vitamin C might function in cancer cells, as
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Contact: Joanne Nicholas
publicaffairs@mskcc.org
212-639-3573
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
15-Sep-1999


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