Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) improves the antineoplastic activity of doxorubicin, cisplatin, and paclitaxel in human breast carcinoma cells in vitro

Cancer Lett. 1996 Jun 5;103(2):183-9. doi: 10.1016/0304-3835(96)04212-7.


Utilizing a microplate ATP bioluminescence assay, two human breast carcinoma cell lines, MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231, were tested against doxorubicin (DOX), cisplatin (DDP), and paclitaxel (Tx) alone and in combination with ascorbic acid (Vit C). In both cell lines, Vit C exhibited cytotoxic activity at high concentrations (i.e. 10(2)-10(3) microM). Both cell lines also were resistant to DOX. MCF-7 was found to be DDP-resistant, MDA-MB-231 was moderately sensitive to DDP. Both cell lines were strongly sensitive to Tx. Vit C both at non-cytotoxic (1 microM) and moderately cytotoxic concentrations (10(2) microM) improved the cytotoxicity of DOX, DDP, and Tx significantly. Combination effects between Vit C and DDP or Tx were partly synergistic and partly additive or subadditive whereas a consistent synergism was found between Vit C and DOX. The mechanisms by which Vit C potentiates the cytostatics studied are yet unclear and should be evaluated further.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage*
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Doxorubicin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Cisplatin