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Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Aug 1;51(3):681-7. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.05.031. Epub 2011 May 30.

Anti-cancer effect of pharmacologic ascorbate and its interaction with supplementary parenteral glutathione in preclinical cancer models.

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Program in Integrative Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


Two popular complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine therapies, high-dose intravenous ascorbic acid (AA) and intravenous glutathione (GSH), are often coadministered to cancer patients with unclear efficacy and drug-drug interaction. In this study we provide the first survey evidence for clinical use of iv GSH with iv AA. To address questions of efficacy and drug-drug interaction, we tested 10 cancer cell lines with AA, GSH, and their combination. The results showed that pharmacologic AA induced cytotoxicity in all tested cancer cells, with IC(50) less than 4 mM, a concentration easily achievable in humans. GSH reduced cytotoxicity by 10-95% by attenuating AA-induced H(2)O(2) production. Treatment in mouse pancreatic cancer xenografts showed that intraperitoneal AA at 4 g/kg daily reduced tumor volume by 42%. Addition of intraperitoneal GSH inhibited the AA-induced tumor volume reduction. Although all treatments (AA, GSH, and AA+GSH) improved survival rate, AA+GSH inhibited the cytotoxic effect of AA alone and failed to provide further survival benefit. These data confirm the pro-oxidative anti-cancer mechanism of pharmacologic AA and suggest that AA and GSH administered together provide no additional benefit compared with AA alone. There is an antagonism between ascorbate and glutathione in treating cancer, and therefore iv AA and iv GSH should not be coadministered to cancer patients on the same day.

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