Scientists at Cornell, Tufts and other institutions have conducted a study in which they successfully killed cancer cells in mice with a supplement that is also used to help cure the common cold: high doses of vitamin C.

While the idea seems fanciful, it might not be entirely off its rocker. The study, which was published in the academic journal Science, concluded that the vitamin C treatment kills two mutations of cancer: KRAS and BRAF mutant colorectal cancer cells.

“More than half of human colorectal cancers (CRCs) carry either KRAS or BRAF mutations, and are often refractory to approved targeted therapies,” stated the study, referring to previous trials that attempted to zero in specifically on cancer cells, unlike chemotherapy or radiation therapy. “We report that cultured CRC cells harboring KRAS or BRAF mutations are selectively killed when exposed to high levels of vitamin C. This effect is due to increased uptake of the oxidized form of vitamin C, dehydroascorbate (DHA), via the GLUT1 glucose transporter.”

Using a cell culture, the research team dosed the cancerous cells within the test subjects and found that the diseased faction soaked up the vitamin and accompanying metabolite, essential killing the infected cell in the process.

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