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Funding for study on the effects of vitamin C on breast cancer

Christchurch campus

Wednesday 30 September 2015 9:54am

Margreet Vissers image
Professor Margreet Vissers

A Christchurch scientist working to determine whether high dose vitamin C is a viable cancer therapy has won funding to explore its effect on breast tumours.

Professor Margreet Vissers is a director of the Centre for Free Radical Research at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation in collaboration with the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation recently awarded her $84,000 to continue her ground-breaking work.

So far she has found in both endometrial and bowel cancer that tumours with higher levels of vitamin C were less aggressive and slower to grow than ones with lower levels of the vitamin. Also, bowel cancer patients with higher tumour vitamin C content had improved progression-free survival. The new funding will allow her to extend her analysis to breast cancer tumours from the Christchurch Cancer Society Tissue Bank.

Professor Vissers says the use of vitamin C by cancer patients is commonplace, but controversial. While there are reports of success, there is little scientific evidence to help our understanding of the role vitamin C might play.

"Some patients report a perceived benefit but we've been short on clinical evidence. If vitamin C works, we need to know how it works and for which tumours. If this study shows that breast cancer responds in the same way as bowel cancer, we will be able to include breast cancer patients in upcoming clinical studies."

Clinical trials would involve patients being given high doses of the vitamin intravenously under controlled conditions, with Professor Vissers’ team tracking its impact on the tumour. With the right level of scientific evidence, high dose vitamin C could prove to be one extra tool in clinicians’’ toolbox of anti-cancer therapies, she says.

For more information, contact:

Professor Margreet Vissers
University of Otago, Christchurch
Principal Investigator, Centre for Free Radical Research
Associate Dean (Research)

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