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New NZ research focuses on Vitamin C and breast cancer

New NZ research focuses on Vitamin C and breast cancer

A new research study will analyse the level of vitamin C in breast tumours, and compare health outcomes for patients with different levels of the vitamin.

The NZ Breast Cancer Foundation and the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation have teamed up for the first time to fund this important study, led by vitamin C expert Professor Margreet Vissers at the University of Otago in Christchurch.

Prof Vissers and her team will analyse breast cancer tumour tissue from the Christchurch tissue bank. She has previously conducted the same analysis with bowel cancer and endometrial cancer tissue, and has found that patients with higher levels of vitamin C in their tumours have extended disease-free survival.

“The use of vitamin C by cancer patients is commonplace, but highly controversial,” says Prof Vissers, who featured in a TVNZ Sunday documentary last October. “Some patients claim to 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 to vitamin C in the same way as bowel cancer, we’ll be able to include breast cancer patients in our upcoming clinical studies.”

Van Henderson, chief executive of the NZBCF, said she was excited when she first read of Prof Vissers’ work. “We know that many women with advanced breast cancer will try intravenous vitamin C, but it’s much harder to know if and how it’s working. The science behind Margreet’s study makes a lot of sense; this might be a real chance to understand if vitamin C really can play a role in breast cancer. From there, we can figure out how it should be used, and when it’s most effective.”

Kate Russell, chief executive of the CMRF, say Prof Vissers is held in high regard in her profession. “Margreet has already demonstrated that the more vitamin C there is in a tumour, the slower it will grow. This study is an important next step and could lead to a trial in patients in the near future.”

The new $84,000 study aims to determine whether vitamin C in the tumour tissue affects the biology of the tumour in a way that could slow growth the cancer growth and spread. This is an essential first step before progressing into the clinic, as there must be a sound rationale for enlisting patients into a clinical trial.


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