High doses of multiple antioxidant vitamins: essential ingredients in improving the efficacy of standard cancer therapy

J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Feb;18(1):13-25. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1999.10718822.


Numerous articles and several reviews have been published on the role of antioxidants, and diet and lifestyle modifications in cancer prevention. However, the potential role of these factors in the management of human cancer have been largely ignored. Extensive in vitro studies and limited in vivo studies have revealed that individual antioxidants such as vitamin A (retinoids), vitamin E (primarily alpha-tocopheryl succinate), vitamin C (primarily sodium ascorbate) and carotenoids (primarily polar carotenoids) induce cell differentiation and growth inhibition to various degrees in rodent and human cancer cells by complex mechanisms. The proposed mechanisms for these effects include inhibition of protein kinase C activity, prostaglandin E1-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity, expression of c-myc, H-ras, and a transcription factor (E2F), and induction of transforming growth factor-beta and p21 genes. Furthermore, antioxidant vitamins individually or in combination enhance the growth-inhibitory effects of x-irradiation, chemotherapeutic agents, hyperthermia, and biological response modifiers on tumor cells, primarily in vitro. These vitamins, individually, also reduce the toxicity of several standard tumor therapeutic agents on normal cells. Low fat and high fiber diets can further enhance the efficacy of standard cancer therapeutic agents; the proposed mechanisms for these effects include the production of increased levels of butyric acid and binding of potential mutagens in the gastrointestinal tract by high fiber and reduced levels of growth promoting agents such as prostaglandins, certain fatty acids and estrogen by low fat. We propose, therefore, a working hypothesis that multiple antioxidant vitamin supplements together with diet and lifestyle modifications may improve the efficacy of standard and experimental cancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins