Vitamin C and antibiotics could be up to 100 times more effective at killing cancer cells than standard-of-care drugs, new research reveals. Giving an antibiotic followed by vitamin C effectively starves cancer cells of their 'fuel', resulting in their death in the lab, a study found.
Vitamin C and the antibiotic given, known as doxycycline, are both relatively non-toxic and could therefore dramatically reduce the side effects of existing treatments, the researchers said.
Cancer stem cells, which fuel the growth of fatal tumours, can be knocked out by a one-two combination of antibiotics and Vitamin C in a new experimental strategy, published by researchers at the University of Salford, UK.
The antibiotic, Doxycycline, followed by doses of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), were surprisingly effective in killing the cancer stem cells under laboratory conditions, according to the research published in the journal Oncotarget.
In boxing terms, this would be the equivalent of two blows delivered in rapid succession; a left-hand jab, followed by a right cross.
The researchers say their method offers a new explanation for how to prevent cancer cells from becoming treatment-resistant and how combinations therapies can be developed to overcome drug resistance.
This new combination approach prevents cancer cells from changing their diet (metabolically inflexible), and effectively starves them, by preventing them from using any other available types of bio-fuels.
The team at the University of Salford's Biomedical Research Centre, added Doxycycline in ever increasing doses over a three-month period, to induce metabolic inflexibility. The result was to leave the cancer cells alive, but severely attenuated and depleted, so that they would be much more susceptible to starvation, by a second metabolic "punch."
First, the researchers inhibited the tumour cell mitochondria, by restricting the cancer cells only to glucose as a fuel source; then, they took away their glucose, effectively starving the cancer cells to death.