Dehydroascorbic acid as an anti-cancer agent

Cancer Lett. 2008 May 18;263(2):164-9. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2008.02.002. Epub 2008 Apr 2.


Three discoveries together point the way to a potential treatment for cancer. In 1982, Poydock and colleagues found that dehydroascorbic acid has the remarkable ability to eliminate the aggressive mouse tumours, L1210, P388, Krebs sarcoma, and Ehrlich carcinoma. In 1993, Jakubowski found that cancer cells (but not normal cells) contain measurable quantities of homocysteine thiolactone. Recently, the author found that dehydroascorbic acid reacts with homocysteine thiolactone converting it to the toxic compound, 3-mercaptopropionaldehyde. Taken together, these findings suggest that rapidly-dividing tumour cells make unusually large amounts of homocysteine thiolactone and that administered dehydroascorbic acid enters the cells and converts the thiolactone to mercaptopropionaldehyde which kills the cancer cells. The effectiveness of dehydroascorbic acid might be further increased by combining it with methionine and/or methotrexate to increase the homocysteine concentration in cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Homocysteine / analogs & derivatives
  • Homocysteine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Homocysteine
  • Methionine
  • homocysteine thiolactone
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid