“Today I propose to tell you of my personal involvement in this still highly controversial subject, the vitamin C in cancer story. The matter is capable of arousing almost any emotion from bitter prejudice and blazing anger on the one hand, to unbridled (and undeserved) enthusiasm on the other, with all grades of scorn, laughter, ridicule, and pity in between. I hope to convince you that the whole research project has a perfectly sound scientific basis, and that Dr. Pauling and I are neither gullible fools, nor are we charlatans.”
-Ewan Cameron, “Vitamin C and Cancer: A Personal Perspective,” September 1984.
Ewan Cameron, about whom we’ve written before, was born in Glasgow, Scotland on July 31, 1922. His interest in medicine emerged early in life and at the age of twenty-one he was interning in surgery and medicine in several Scottish hospitals. One year later he received the British equivalent of an M.D. degree from the University of Glasgow and shortly thereafter was stationed in Burma, performing surgeries as a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army Reserve at the close of World War II.
Following his three years of active military service, Cameron returned to Scotland and resumed his training in surgery and radiotherapy. In 1956, at the age of 33, he was appointed Consultant Surgeon at Vale of Leven District Hospital in Dunbartonshire, Scotland – at the time, Cameron was the youngest such appointee in all of the U. K.
Cameron’s formal association with Vale of Leven would last for twenty-six years, and it is during this period that he formulated an important theory on the nature of cancer. Cameron’s idea was that the malignant invasiveness of cancer cells might be combated by manipulating hyaluronidase inhibitor, a naturally-occurring substance that controls the hyaluronidase enzyme liberated by malignant tumors. The theory, which Cameron developed for at least eleven years before publishing, was founded on the notion of fighting cancer through the strengthening of the human body’s natural protective mechanisms.
In 1971 Cameron further hypothesized that vitamin C was required for the body’s synthesis of hyaluronidase inhibitor, and thereafter noted promising results for those terminally-ill cancer patients at Vale of Leven being treated with ten daily grams of ascorbic acid. This line of inquiry was a natural fit for work being conducted several thousand miles away by Linus Pauling. Cameron recalled
Just as the idea evolved, I learned that Professor Linus Pauling had stated that vitamin C might be helpful for cancer patients. My first reaction was one of dismay, even defeat, but such a feeling did not last very long. I wrote immediately to Dr. Pauling and we have been close collaborators ever since. Dr. Pauling had reasoned that an adequacy of vitamin C (necessary for collagen formation) might increase the scirrhous reaction and help encapsulate tumors. On further reading we realized that vitamin C was involved in many other aspects of host resistance, such as cell-mediated immunity and the biosynthesis of interferon. Many independent investigators subsequently were able to show that ascorbate administered in the gram range enhanced these defensive mechanisms to levels of activity far above the so-called normal range. Therefore, there is a strong case for the expectation that supplemental vitamin C, in adequate dosage, might have some beneficial effect against cancer.
Thus began a fruitful partnership resulting in ten papers co-authored by Cameron and Pauling on the potential value of vitamin C in the treatment of cancer.
In 1978 Cameron accepted Pauling’s offer of appointment as Chief Medical Officer at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, and moved with his family to California. A year later, Pauling and Cameron published Cancer and Vitamin C, a book-length description of their work written for a more general audience. Initially self-published by the Institute, the book was eventually translated into French and Japanese.
Cameron and Pauling continued to work on the cancer question throughout the 1980s, at points turning their attentions to ascorbic acid’s potential value to those suffering with AIDS. Amidst it all, the duo was routinely attacked by the mainstream medical establishment – a source of tremendous frustration for both Pauling and Cameron. In concluding his 1984 talk, Cameron provided a glimpse into the resentment that the bad press had engendered.
Despite unethical and unprofessional well-publicized attacks on our integrity in the media by Mayo Clinic investigators on the basis of two very seriously flawed trials, I remain convinced that the value of supplemental ascorbate has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that in time supplemental ascorbate will come to form a part of all comprehensive cancer treatment regimens. It appears that the general public is already ahead of the medical profession in reaching such a decision.
Ewan Cameron died on March 21, 1991, aged 68, of prostate cancer – the same disease which ultimately claimed Linus Pauling’s life three and a half years later. To date no clear consensus has been reached on the body of work created by the Pauling-Cameron collaboration, though it is worth noting that research published in August 2008 by the National Institutes of Health reported that “High-dose injections of vitamin C, also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid, reduced tumor weight and growth rate by about 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers.”
The Ewan Cameron Papers is just one of the many collections housed in the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections.