High-dose intravenously administered vitamin C (IVC) is widely used in cancer patients by complementary and alternative medicine practitioners. The most frequent indications for IVC therapy result from the belief in its effectiveness as a potent anti-cancer agent which additionally enhances chemosensitivity of cancer cells and reduces chemotherapy-related toxicities and fatigue intensity. In this narrative review, we decided to deal with this issue, trying to answer the question whether there is any scientific evidence supporting the rationale for application of high-dose IVC therapy in advanced-stage cancer patients. Although results obtained from preclinical studies demonstrated that millimolar ascorbate plasma concentrations achievable only after IVC administration were cytotoxic to fast-growing malignant cells and inhibited tumor growth as well as prolonged the survival of laboratory animals, such positive effects were not found in human studies with advanced-stage cancer patients. We also have not found the rationale for the use of IVC to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and to reduce the chemotherapy-induced toxicity in the above mentioned group. Nevertheless, in palliative care, high-dose IVC might be considered as a therapy improving the quality of life and reducing cancer-related symptoms, such as fatigue and bone pain. However, because of the absence of placebo-controlled randomized trials on IVC efficacy in advanced-stage cancer patients, the placebo effect cannot be excluded.
Keywords: cancer; cancer-related fatigue; pain; palliative care; quality of life; vitamin C.