Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Mail on Sunday, Yes to Life and that ‘quack Vitamin C cancer therapy’

Today's post is from our founder Robin Daly challenging an article written about Yes to Life and Vitamin C. He shares the story of trying to hold the newspaper to account and gives us some the evidence as to why Vitamin C therapy is far from quackery.

Some of you may have seen the article published by the Mail on Sunday, in print and online, regarding Yes to Life and Vitamin C.
Despite giving Yes to Life the opportunity, prior to publication, to respond to the criticismsbeing levelled at the charity - which we did in spades - when it came to publication, the only nod to balanced reporting was
YTL founder Robin Daly said: The only thing we do is to provide interested people with information.
The term that comes to mind for this style of reporting is hatchet job.
We decided the article was so biased we were not content to just let it go by, and so approached IPSO, the regulator, with a view to getting some sort of redress. In this we have had some degree of success, which is heartening:
   The flagrantly untrue sub-heading Yes To Life charges up to £3000 for doses of intravenous Vitamin Cwas removed and replaced with the factually correct, if still rather misleading Doctors listed by Yes To Life charge up to £3000 for doses of intravenous Vitamin C.
   Yes to Life was given the opportunity to respond more fully to the article in the form of a footnote to the web article which was also published in Letters in the print version. The footnote reads:

'Statement by Yes To Life: Your article referred to Yes To Life and quoted negative opinions about Vitamin C cancer treatments. In fact, considering there are no big profits to be made from Vitamin C, unlike a new drug, and therefore no commercial interest in research, there is actually an impressive body of evidence including laboratory, animal and human trials. Its safety combined with usefulness against both cancer and the side effects of standard treatments, makes a good case for considering Vitamin C as part of a treatment programme. Our charity provides information and contacts and helps many people to pay for treatments which are reasonably priced at around £200 per two-hour session including the cost of supervising doctor, nurse and clinic. - Robin Daly, Chairman, Yes To Life '

Vitamin C and Cancer
So how does Vitamin C stack up as an approach for people with cancer?
Well firstly, and very importantly, as mentioned above, its safety profile is extraordinary, a rarity amongst cancer therapies1. The evidence is that all its effects are positive, including:
   Supports the immune system2
    May significantly improve quality of life measures alongside cancer treatment3
   Produces a chemical reaction that makes hydrogen peroxide, which may kill cancer cells4
    Tumour cells selectively uptake more vitamin C (and hence hydrogen peroxide) than regular cells5
   Significantly reduces the side effects of cancer treatment, including fatigue, nausea, insomnia, constipation and depression6


This all adds up to a very compelling case for considering Vitamin C as part of a cancer programme.  And as you can see, it is far from the case that “‘There is no evidence at all.as stated by the MoS experts. The sum of the evidence for Vitamin C would, within the hierarchy of evidence, be classed as emerging. Yet this is hardly a basis for dismissing it wholesale, when it has an incredible safety record. By contrast, emerging evidence for a drug with potentially harmful side effects would be a major hot topic, with rules being bent and red tape slashed in the rush to get it to people dying from cancer.
Vitamin C, along with a host of other unpatentable approaches, will never gain the research attention it deserves until governments start to put their weight behind the effort to find effective solutions. The corporations that we currently rely on to find answers are sadly only looking for expensive and profitable ones. We are paying heavily for this reliance with the lives of our families and friends.
The Mail on Sunday gave the impression that intravenous Vitamin C therapy is likely to set you back £3000 for a single treatment. This is far from the truth. A typical cost is around £200 per session, which involves a clinic visit and full medical supervision. The Vitamin C itself is relatively cheap, but safe professional delivery has a price tag. A full cycle of 15 sessions is likely to cost about £3000, and whilst, for the man in the street used to free healthcare, this could be described as quite expensive, in terms of useful things to do about cancer, its very inexpensive.
New Development
Until recently, cancer patients using Vitamin C always had it delivered intravenously. The reason for this is that the effective dose is far, far more than would be possible to ingest orally. The gut simply cant tolerate high doses, and most of it would be speedily evacuated from the bowel! Doctors regularly use doses of between 50 and 75 grams per session. Contrast this with the dosage of a megaVitamin C tablet at 1 gram!
Enter liposomalVitamin C. Liposomes are a new form of delivery for both drugs and supplements, and enable a far more efficient delivery direct to cells. This adds up to lower dose - more effect. Though still considered by many practitioners to be inferior to Intravenous Vitamin C, liposomal Vitamin C does enable patients to generate a good level of Vitamin C orally, thus cutting out the necessity of clinic visits7.
That said, a word of caution: high dose Vitamin C, in common with most other unorthodox approaches, should never be considered without expert guidance. Vitamin C is not a suitable approach in every case, and careful, expert monitoring of progress is essential.
A Real WorldCase
Blues musician and Osteopath Charlie Lankester was diagnosed in 2011 with hepatocellularcarcinoma (HCC), a cancer of the liver caused by a rare reaction to Hepatitis C. He describes the appointment with his consultant following diagnosis:
I sat across a table, and on the other side he sat and shuffled his papers. I could see his eyes adopting a startled and haunted expression, so I sort of knew what he would say. Yes, HCC is curable in the early stages, but mine was so advanced (stage 3 or 4) that this was out of the question. Stage 3 means it has spread through the liver. Stage 4 means it is outside the liver. My scan showed some small lesions in the peritoneum, but since I was going to die anyway, they were never investigated. Transplants were inappropriate, as enough tumour cells always remained to reinfect the new liver. As I asked the obvious question I felt as though I was watching a clichéd old movie.
Months rather than years, Mr Lankester. I laughed. The whole situation seemed so unreal. I have to release my record, so thatll just have to wait, I replied.
He then radically changed his diet and consulted a Naturopath who put him on a course of supplements and suggested that high-dose Intravenous Vitamin C could help. I was keen to try the Vitamin C as I had read about it over the years in the course of my work, and had always been interested in it.
Charlie then saw the Chief Liver Consultant, as surgery was clearly not an option. He pointed out the tumour on Charlies scan, which, at 25 cms, was one of the biggest they had seen. As someone who has studied a great deal of medicine, I found the whole process fascinating, and sometimes forgot we were talking about my imminent death. We also talked about AlphaFetoProtein (AFP) which is the marker in the blood for this cancer. I have read in the literature of people dying with an AFP of 500, and I believe over 200 is considered terminal. The first blood test showed mine at 660,000. Some of the doctors gasped when they read it! This man seemed to think that with luck I could survive most of a year, but chemotherapy could extend this, possibly to two years. However, I would have to start straight away, and it would make me very sick. I didnt wish to start the dying process immediately, so I put him off. When Vitamin C was mentioned, and I explained that I wanted to try a naturopathic approach, his two comments were Ive never heard of itandit wont work.
So, I was too far gone for surgery, radiotherapy was inappropriate, and chemotherapy would just make me very ill for what time I had left. I didnt want to spend the rest of my life being wheeled around a hospital looking like a Belsen survivor full of plastic tubes and toxic drugs. Strangely,  being written off by the medical profession, was in my opinion, what saved my life. I was all alone, and free to make my own decisions.
After two three week courses and a month of twice weekly doses of Vitamin C, his tumour markers were down and he revisited the Consultant.
He seemed grave, and I didnt know what to expect. It seems there has been a slight reduction in the tumour. This sometimes happens in these very large tumours and is called  autoinfarction. There has been a reduction in the tumour marker also. Well, does that mean you think I might survive?’ ‘Unfortunately, Mr Lankester, the literature is quite clear. In these cases there is no possibility of survival.’ ‘Do you think the Vitamin C may have helped?’ ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that it works, and I only practice evidence-based medicine.
As they were walking out of the door, Charlie asked exactly how much the slight reductionwas, and the reply left him open-mouthed: About 50%.
Over the coming months Charlie stopped losing weight and gradually began to regain his strength. The pain in his liver subsided and eventually disappeared altogether. Just over a year after diagnosis, the doctors at Kings College were unable to find any evidence of cancer on Charlies scans, and he has remained in good health since by dint of good diet and lifestyle choices, and ongoing supportive therapies.
In Conclusion
All of this makes the case for Yes to Lifes persistence in wanting to make such potentially helpful information available to all those with cancer, particularly those who have been assigned to the no hopecategory. With cancer incidence and survival rates as bad as they are in Britain, people need all the help they can get. With so few treatment options on offer from the NHS, a therapy that will almost certainly do no harm, and stands a fair chance of helping, possibly in several ways, deserves better than being dismissed as just a quackremedy.
PS
If youre thinking this post is one sided, in that I am unashamedly and exclusively airing the Yes to Life perspective, I would agree. In my opinion, the MoSs experts(who include leading cancer consultant Agamemnon Epenetos, owner of a pharmaceutical company called Trojantec that received a glowing article8 about of one of its breakthroughproducts a few months earlier written bythe same journalist that wrote the article about Yes to Life and Vitamin C!) have already had an unhindered opportunity to broadcast their opinions to the world.This post seeks to do a fuller job of redressing the balance than was possible in the footnote added to the MoS article.
Further Reading
If you are interested to see more of the extensive evidence base for Vitamin C, you may like to purchase New Insights on Vitamin C and Cancer. Its expensive for a very slim book, but packed with everything you need to know about the research, up until last year, when it was published.

References
1Sorice A, Guerriero E, Capone F, Colonna G, Castello G, Costantini S (2014) Ascorbic acid: its role in immune system and chronic inflammation diseases. Mini Rev Med Chem. May;14(5):444-52.
Block KI, Koch AC, Mead MN, et al. Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic efficacy: A systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Cancer Treat Rev 2007;33:407418.
2Sorice A, Guerriero E, Capone F, Colonna G, Castello G, Costantini S (2014) Ascorbic acid: its role in immune system and chronic inflammation diseases. Mini Rev Med Chem. May;14(5):444-52.
3Fritz H1, Flower G2, Weeks L2, Cooley K3, Callachan M1, McGowan J1, Skidmore B1, Kirchner L4, Seely D5. (2014) Intravenous Vitamin C and Cancer: A Systematic Review. ) Integr Cancer Ther. 2014 May 26;13(4):280-300.
4National Cancer Institute, accessed on 20/10/14 http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/highdosevitaminc/patient/page2.
5Zhao FQ, Keating AF (2007) Functional Properties and Genomics of Glucose Transporters. Current Genomics. Apr; 8(2): 113128.
6Ma Y, Chapman J, Levine M, Polireddy K, Drisko J, Chen Q. (2014) Highdose parenteral ascorbate enhanced chemosensitivity of ovarian cancer and reduced toxicity of chemotherapy. Sci Transl Med. Feb 5;6(222).
Block KI, Koch AC, Mead MN, et al. Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic toxicity: A systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Int J Cancer 2008;123:12271239.
7 Hickey, Stephen, Roberts, Hilary J. and Miller, Nicholas J.(2008)'Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C',Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine.



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