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Severe hypovitaminosis C in lung-cancer patients: the utilization of vitamin C in surgical repair and lymphocyte-related host resistance

Br J Cancer 1982 Sep;46(3):354-67    (ISSN: 0007-0920)

Anthony HM; Schorah CJ

Plasma and buffy-coat vitamin C were estimated in 158 samples from 139 lung - cancer patients , at all stages of the disease. Most samples showed hypovitaminosis C in both estimations: 64% had plasma , and 25% buffy-coat values below the thresholds for incipient clinical scurvy (0.3 mg% and 10 micrograms/10(8) cells respectively). Levels were diet-dependent and could be increased by oral supplements. Levels were low both in tumour-bearing patients and in those clinically free of disease after resection. The latter had particularly low values during the first 6 months, indicating the utilization of vitamin C in surgical repair . The vitamin C content of 13 primary lung tumours was assayed: tumours had a higher vitamin C content (mean 111.6 +/- 55. 1 micrograms/g tissue) than normal lung (58.5 +/- 20.4 micrograms/g). Mononuclear cells from normal individuals show a higher vitamin C content than polymorphs, but in lung - cancer patients the expected correlation of buffy-coat vitamin C with the proportion of lymphocytes in peripheral blood was obscured by an inverse correlation in patients with relative lymphocytosis (greater than or equal to 25% lymphocytes ), confirmed by an inverse correlation of the proportion of lymphocytes in peripheral blood with mononuclear-cell vitamin C in 14 patients in whom this was measured. These correlations were unaffected by controlling for plasma values, and indicate the utilization of vitamin C in lymphocyte - related anti-tumour mechanisms. Vitamin C is necessary for phagocytosis and for the expression of cell-mediated immunity. In view of the increasing circumstantial evidence that immune mechanisms exert some measure of control on tumour extension and metastasis in man, the effect of supplementation with vitamin C in lung - cancer patients on survival should be tested in a clinical trial.



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