Vitamin C supplements could help reduce the toxic side effects of common cancer treatments

Vitamin C tablets and oranges

In rats, vitamin C supplementation helps maintain skeletal muscle after doxorubicin therapy.

A study conducted on rats suggests that taking vitamin C may help counteract muscle atrophy, which is a common side effect of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. Although clinical trials would be needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of taking vitamin C while being treated with doxorubicin, the results suggest that vitamin C may present a promising way to reduce some of the drug’s most debilitating side effects.

“Our results suggest that vitamin C is a potential adjunctive therapy to support the management of peripheral muscle disease after doxorubicin treatment, thereby improving functional capacity and quality of life and reducing mortality,” said Antonio Viana do Nascimento Filho, a master’s student at the Medicine at the University of Nove de Julho (UNINOVE) in Brazil, first author of the study. Nascimento Filho will present the findings at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting during the Experimental Biology (EB) 2022 meeting, being held April 2-5 in Philadelphia.

Doxorubicin is an anthracycline chemotherapy drug that is commonly used along with other chemotherapy regimens to treat breast cancer, bladder cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, and several other cancers. While doxorubicin is a powerful anti-cancer drug, it can cause serious heart problems and muscle atrophy, with lasting effects on survivors’ physical endurance and quality of life.

It is believed that these side effects are due to an excessive production of oxygen reactive species or “free radicals” in the body. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that can help reduce oxidative stress, the type of damage caused by free radicals.

In a previous study conducted with the University of Manitoba in Canada, the research group found that vitamin C improved markers of heart health and survival in rats given doxorubicin, primarily by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. In the new study, they looked at whether vitamin C might similarly help prevent the negative effects of doxorubicin on skeletal muscle.

The researchers compared skeletal muscle mass and markers of oxidative stress in four groups of rats, with eight to ten animals in each group. One group received both vitamin C and doxorubicin, a second group received only vitamin C, a third group received only doxorubicin, and a fourth group received neither. The mice given vitamin C along with doxorubicin showed signs of reduced oxidative stress and better muscle mass compared to mice given doxorubicin but no vitamin C.

“It is exciting that vitamin C prophylaxis and concomitant treatments, performed just one week before and another two weeks after doxorubicin use, were sufficient to mitigate the side effects of this drug on skeletal muscle, resulting in a tremendously The health of the examined animals contributed to the positive effect,” said Nascimento Filho. “Our work has shown that vitamin C treatment can mitigate muscle mass loss and improve many markers of free radical imbalance in rats administered doxorubicin.”

The scientists noted that more research, including randomized clinical trials, would be needed to confirm whether taking vitamin C during treatment with doxorubicin would be helpful for human patients and to determine the appropriate dosage and timing. Previous studies have shown that vitamin C may interfere with the effects of chemotherapy drugs, so patients are advised not to take vitamin C supplements during cancer treatment unless directed to do so by their doctor.

Nascimento Filho will present this research from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Monday, April 4 at Exhibit/Poster Hall AB, Pennsylvania Convention Center (Poster Board Number E277) (abstract). Contact the media team for more information or to receive a free press pass to attend the session.

Meeting: Experimental Biology 2022 Vitamin C supplements could help reduce the toxic side effects of common cancer treatments

Russell Falcon

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