Background: Many studies describe the protective role of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) against cancer development and in treatment of established cancer. The present study investigated whether ascorbic acid demonstrates a therapeutic benefit for prostate cancer.
Methods: Androgen-independent (DU145) and androgen-dependent (LNCaP) human prostate cancer cell lines were both treated in vitro with vitamin C (0-10 mM). Cell counts, cell viability, and thymidine incorporation into DNA were determined.
Results: Treatment of DU145 and LNCaP cells with vitamin C resulted in a dose- and time-dependent decrease in cell viability and thymidine incorporation into DNA. Vitamin C induced these changes through the production of hydrogen peroxide; addition of catalase (100-300 units/ml), an enzyme that degrades hydrogen peroxide, inhibited the effects of ascorbic acid. Superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that dismutates superoxide and generates hydrogen peroxide, did not prevent decreases in cell number and DNA synthesis, suggesting further the involvement of hydrogen peroxide in vitamin C-induced changes. These results clearly indicate that reactive oxygen species (ROS) are involved in vitamin C-induced cell damage. However, that singlet oxygen scavengers such as sodium azide and hydroquinone and hydroxyl radical scavengers such as D-mannitol and DL-alpha-tocopherol did not counteract the effects of ascorbic acid on thymidine incorporation suggests that vitamin C-induced changes do not occur through the generation of these ROS.
Conclusions: Vitamin C inhibits cell division and growth through production of hydrogen peroxide, which damages the cells probably through an as yet unidentified free radical(s) generation/mechanism. Our results also suggest that ascorbic acid is a potent anticancer agent for prostate cancer cells.