A combination of vitamin C and antibiotics may be up to 100 times more effective at killing cancer cells than standard drugs, says new research.
Researchers at the University of Salford in the UK said cancer stem cells, which fuel the growth of fatal tumours, can be knocked out by a one-two combination of antibiotics and vitamin C.
The antibiotic, doxycycline, followed by doses of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), were surprisingly effective in killing the cancer stem cells under laboratory conditions.
The researchers said their method offers a new explanation for how to prevent cancer cells from becoming treatment-resistant and how combinations therapies can be developed to overcome drug resistance.
The team showed that vitamin C was up to ten times more effective at stopping cancer cell growth than pharmaceuticals such as 2-DG, but they say that when vitamin C is combined with an antibiotic, it is up to ten times more effective, making it nearly 100 times more effective than 2-DG.
As doxycycline and vitamin C are both relatively non- toxic, this could dramatically reduce the possible side- effects of anti-cancer therapy, researchers said.
“Certain cancer cells which we call metabolically flexible are able to switch their fuel source,” said professor Michael Lisanti from University of Salford. “Thus, when the drug treatment reduces the availability of a particular nutrient, the flexible cancer cells can feed themselves with an alternative energy source,” said Lisanti.
The new combination approach prevents cancer cells from changing their diet (metabolically inflexible), and effectively starves them, by preventing them from using any other available types of bio-fuels.
The team added doxycycline in ever increasing doses over a three-month period, to induce metabolic inflexibility. The result was to leave the cancer cells alive, but severely attenuated and depleted, so that they would be much more susceptible to starvation, by a second metabolic “punch”.