The power of vitamin C: Can it kill cancer stem cells? – Bel Marra Health

By daniellenierenberg

Home Cancer The power of vitamin C: Can it kill cancer stem cells?

Every three minutes, one person in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer. Thankfully, there may be a new approach to helping these individuals fight it using vitamin C.

Researchers from Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health recently published a report in the journal Cell indicating that vitamin C may be able to tell faulty cells in bone marrow to mature and die instead of multiplying to cause blood cancers. They explained that specific genetic changes are able to reduce the ability of the enzyme known as TET2 to push stem cells to mature, which die in many people who suffer from leukemia. Experts discovered that vitamin C seemed to activate TET2 in mice that were engineered to be TET2 deficient. In simple terms, TET2 is a tumor suppressor that can prevent certain cells from growing uncontrollably.

Mutations that reduce TET2 function are present in about 10 percent of people with acute myeloid leukemia, 30 percent of patients with a pre-leukemia known as myelodysplastic syndrome, and close to 50 percent of people with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. Tests indicate that about 2.5 percent of U.S. cancer patients develop TET2 mutations, including some with lymphomas.

The study focused on the relationship between TET2 and cytosine, which is one of four nucleic acid letters that make up the DNA codes in our genes. The attachment of a small molecule, referred to as a methyl group, to cytosine bases can shut down the actions of a gene. As the human body forms, the attachment and removal of methyl groups adjust gene expression in stem cells, which can mature and become muscle, bone, nerve, or other cell types. The bone marrow keeps stem cells in pools, ready to become replacement cells when and if needed. In the case of leukemia, the signals that are supposed to tell a blood stem cell to mature end up malfunctioning, leaving it to multiply instead of developing normal white cells, which are needed to help fight infection.

Medical scientists explain that TET2 allows for a change in methyl groups that are required to be removed from cytosine. This essentially turns on genes and directs stem cells to mature and eventually destroy themselves. Researchers say that this signals an anti-cancer mechanism, something that can help blood cancer patients with TET2 mutations.

The team of researchers genetically engineered mice to manipulate the TET2 gene. Techniques to turn off TET2 in mice lead to abnormal stem cell behavior. The changes were reversed when TET2 was restored. Since previous work indicated that vitamin C could stimulate TET2, the researchers theorized that high doses of vitamin C might reverse the effects of TET2 deficiency. It would be a case of turning up the action on the functional gene. As it turns out, high dose vitamin C treatment did induce stem cells to mature and also suppressed the growth of leukemia cancer cells implanted in mice.

As of now, the NYU team is working on identifying genetic changes that may contribute to the risk of leukemia in specific groups of patients. While this latest study provides some hope for blood cancer patients, the manipulation of TET2 is only a potential new treatment approach until further studies are conducted. Currently approved treatments for blood cancers include stem cell transplantation, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Related: Combining antibiotics and vitamin C helps to combat cancer stem cells

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The power of vitamin C: Can it kill cancer stem cells? - Bel Marra Health

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