Cancer and Vitamin C Redux

Group photo of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine staff, 1989.  Ewan Cameron stands adjacent to Linus Pauling's left shoulder.

Group photo of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine staff, 1989. Ewan Cameron stands adjacent to Linus Pauling

The conversation concerning the possible use of vitamin C in the treatment of cancer continues to gather momentum. 

As we’ve noted before on the PaulingBlog, the possibility that ascorbic acid might be a useful tool in the fight against cancer was a topic of intense interest to Linus Pauling and a handful of his colleagues (Ewan Cameron and Irwin Stone, among others) over the last two decades of his life.  Pauling’s devotion to the subject, and often-fiery defenses of his beliefs, attracted no small amount of criticism from the scientific and medical mainstream.  More than anything else, Pauling’s vitamin C and cancer research is the source of the “Pauling as quack” notions still prevalent in certain circles.

With Pauling’s death in 1994, the push for rigorous study of the vitamin C and cancer question steadily dissipated.  In recent time however, thanks in large part to new findings published by the National Institutes of Health, the possibilities suggested by Pauling, Cameron, Stone and others are now re-entering the scientific discourse.  As reported yesterday in Cancer Monthly, a new commentary written by Dr. Balz Frei and Stephen Lawson of the Linus Pauling Institute, and published in the August 12, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, (free extract available here) lends further credence to the preliminary results reported in early August by the NIH.  Quoting from Cancer Monthly

“[Pauling and Cameron’s] research was intriguing enough that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched two subsequent studies on the subject at the Mayo Clinic.  However, when those studies failed to show that vitamin C increased survival in terminal cancer patients, interest in the antioxidant as an anticancer therapy began to wane….Where the NCI studies were likely missing the mark was by giving vitamin C orally in relatively small doses, say the commentary authors….’We know that IV vitamin C produces levels in blood that are many times greater than those achieved with oral supplementation, and these very high concentrations may be necessary to kill cancer cells,’ says Lawson.”

In the spirit of lending added historical perspective to this evolving topic, the PaulingBlog is pleased to provide exclusive access to Linus Pauling’s first complete speech typescript on the subject at hand.  Below the fold is the entirety of a fourteen-page talk titled “Ascorbic Acid and Cancer,” delivered by Pauling to the California Orthomolecular Medical Society at a meeting in San Francisco on February 14, 1976. While this typescript does not represent the first presentation that Pauling gave on the topic (the earliest talks date back to at least November 1971), the content published below does represent the oldest complete vitamin C and cancer speech typescript held in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers.

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Linus Pauling, “Ascorbic Acid and Cancer” (Speech presented at the California Orthomolecular Medical Society meeting, San Francisco, 14 February 1976).

"Ascorbic Acid and Cancer, pg. 1"

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3 Responses

  1. […] The background to the cancer research circumstance is fascinating but too complex for us to detail here. (Evelleen Richards’ tremendous Vitamin C and Cancer: Medicine or Politics? is highly recommended for those interested in the whole story)  For our purposes, it is sufficient to say that Pauling took considerable umbrage with a series of trials conducted by the Mayo Clinic, first in 1979 and later in 1985, that purported to refute his and Ewan Cameron’s work on the potential for treating cancer with large amounts of ascorbic acid. (A bit more background is here and here.) […]

  2. […] Cancer and Vitamin C Redux [9-30-08; 180] […]

  3. […] cancer using orthomolecular methods.  Based on his study of fifty patients Hoffer concluded that Pauling and Ewan Cameron’s hypothesis “that vitamin C in large doses did improve enormously the outcome of treatment for […]

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