Intravenous Vitamin C & Cancer

Intravenous vitamin C is a supportive treatment for cancer which increases immune activity and improves quality of life. Vitamin C is not a cure for cancer but when given IV in high doses IV doses there is a potential anti-cancer effect.

Early Usage

Intravenous vitamin C as a treatment for cancer was first studied1 in the 1970s by Nobel Prize winning2 biochemist, Linus Pauling (1901 – 1994). Pauling asserted that vitamin C is an essential factor for mounting a resistance to cancerous cells and malignancy. He believed that the reason cancer patients are deficient in vitamin C is because of their increased requirement and utilization3 of the vitamin.

Modern Usage

More recently, intravenous vitamin C for the treatment of cancer has been studied by McGill University4 and adopted by the University of Kansas5, where patients are treated with intravenous vitamin C on a daily basis. This treatment has also been championed by Dr. Hugh Riordan MD6, who has published several studies7,8,9,10,11,12 on the use of intravenous vitamin C for cancer.

How Does Vitamin C Affect Cancer?


Proposed mechanism of action of vitamin C in the treatment of cancer.

Hydrogen Peroxide Formation

  • Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant16, meaning that it helps to prevent damage to our cells from unstable (oxidizing) molecules.
  • However, at high concentrations, vitamin C acts as a selective pro-oxidant, delivering hydrogen peroxide directly to cancer cells, while non-cancerous cells are left unaffected16,17. Hydrogen peroxide is an unstable molecule which will cause cell damage and cell death if it accumulates.
  • Several researchers have suggested that hydrogen peroxide accumulation is the mechanism by which intravenous vitamin C affects cancer cells18,19,20.
  • Cancer cell sensitivity to vitamin C and hydrogen peroxide may be due to their low levels of anti-oxidant enzymes21.

Collagen Formation

Vitamin C is also necessary for the formation of collagen, an essential component of the extra-cellular matrix22, which serves as a physical barrier to the spread of cancer cells23. It has been suggested that vitamin C’s collagen building and maintaining properties are an important part of its anti-cancer properties24.

Does Intravenous Vitamin C Cure Cancer?

Intravenous vitamin C is not a magic cure for cancer. This treatment helps to improve quality of life4,13,14 of cancer patients, including pain, fatigue, nausea and appetite. Intravenous vitamin C also can help to control and inhibit tumor growth4,15. I do not recommend that a person with cancer should pursue treatment with intravenous vitamin C (or other alternative cancer treatments) while forgoing conventional surgical, radiation and chemotherapeutic treatment options. Cancer is an aggressive and challenging condition to treat. All treatment options should be discussed with the doctor who specializes in their area. One of the best features of intravenous vitamin C is that it interacts with very few conventional cancer treatments and is safe to be used adjunctively.

Why Intravenous?

  • Absorption of vitamin C via the digestive tract is tightly controlled, with peak blood concentrations of vitamin C reaching no more than 220 micromol/L from oral vitamin C25.
  • With intravenous administration, blood concentrations of vitamin C can reach as high as 13,400 micromol/L25.
  • High concentrations of vitamin C are necessary to achieve the desired pro-oxidant, anti-cancer effect18.
  • It is important to keep in mind that even at high concentrations, vitamin C does not have a pro-oxidant effect on our normal, healthy cells18.
Intravenous vitamin c bottles cancer


Clinical safety data on intravenous vitamin C shows an excellent safety profile7,14,15,26. However, those with kidney disease27,28 or glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency should not be given intravenous vitamin C treatments. In people with a history of a kidney stone formation, intravenous vitamin C treatment may also increase the risk of developing a kidney stone7.

In my Halifax practice, the most common adverse effects which I have seen from intravenous vitamin C treatments have been hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatigue and thirst. Each of these adverse effects is typically rare, minor and easily correctable by drinking fluids and eating before and after treatment.

Integrative Cancer Care

Natural treatments, carefully selected by a naturopathic doctor, are an excellent adjunct to conventional cancer treatment. For example, rather than causing interactions, a number of studies have suggested that intravenous vitamin C works synergistically with chemotherapeutic medications, likely improving their effectiveness14,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36. Other natural treatment options include Viscum album injections, dietary interventions, herbal medicine, medicinal mushrooms, nutritional supplementation and more.

Intravenous Vitamin C in Halifax

Dr. MacLeod is a member of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and has a special interest in the treatment of cancer. If you are interested in having intravenous vitamin C treatment and are in the Halifax area, contact Cornerstone Naturopathic to book an initial consultation with Dr. MacLeod.


  1. E Cameron and L Pauling. Supplemental ascorbate in the supportive treatment of cancer: Prolongation of survival times in terminal human cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1976 October; 73(10): 3685–3689.
  2. “Linus Pauling – Facts”. Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 27 Dec 2013.
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  4. Sebastian J. Padayatty, Hugh D. Riordan, Stephen M. Hewitt, Arie Katz, L. John Hoffer, Mark Levine. Intravenously administered vitamin C as cancer therapy: three cases. CMAJ March 28, 2006 vol. 174 no. 7.
  5. “Infusion Clinic”. University of Kansas Medical Centre 2013. Web. 27 Dec 2013.
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  11. Park S, Han SS, Park CH, Hahm ER, Lee SJ, Park HK, Lee SH, Kim WS, Jung CW, Park K, Riordan HD, Kimler BF, Kim K, Lee JH. L-Ascorbic acid induces apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia cells via hydrogen peroxide-mediated mechanisms. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Nov;36(11):2180-95.
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