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Vitamin C: Cancer cure?

Rating

3 Star

Vitamin C: Cancer cure?

Our Review Summary

This article reports on the use of intravenous vitamin C as a treatment for cancer. The article tells the story of several patients who had wonderful outcomes after the use of intravenous vitamin C. But there are no quantitative estimates of benefit; the reader is only given anecdotal reports about how well a couple of patients did. We have no idea whether this is better or worse than others with similar disease.The story mentions that reports of side effects are rare and that risky patients can be screened out. But the harms are not clearly delineated, nor the true number of patients that are affected. Since other “providers” may be administering this treatment without physician oversight, if there are people at risk for bad outcomes this should have been described more fully.

The story mentions cancer cells being killed in culture by vitamin C under conditions in which normal cells flourished. However, the article should have taken the opportunity to question how to interpret the lack of scientific studies demonstrating real potential in human use.

Overall there is a question of balance in this story. Most of the people quoted are either patients who have received intravenous vitamin C who believe it is responsible for their current state of well being, or are clinicians who appear to have a vested interest in vitamin C infusions. The article would have been improved by including the perspectives of individuals who are not associated with this treatment. This may have provided a clearer picture of the state of the evidence about vitamin C as a cancer treatment.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story lists the cost for intravenous infusion of vitamin C as $110 and the article mentions that most insurance companies do not cover it.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

There are no quantitative estimates of benefit; the reader is only given anecdotal reports about how well a couple of patients did. But we have no idea whether this is better or worse than others with similar disease.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions that reports of side effects are rare and that risky patients can be screened out. But the harms are not clearly delineated, nor the true number of patients that are affected. Since other “providers” may be administering this treatment without physician oversight, if there are people at risk for bad outcomes this should have been described more fully.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

While some of the evidence presented is weak and anecdotal, the story attempts in several places to address those weaknesses.

The story appropriately states: “The problem is, anecdotes and impressions don’t count. Skeptics ask: Where’s the data on dosing and regimens, on tumor responses, on survival?” And it says that “A clinical trial is considered ultra-reliable because it is designed to keep beliefs and hopes from slanting findings.”

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

This article has many examples of disease mongering. The story could have explained, for example, that the case of the woman diagnosed with colon cancer at age 38 – though not unheard of – is very unusual at this age.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

There is a question of balance in this story. Most of the people quoted are either patients who have received intravenous vitamin C who believe it is responsible for their current state of well being, or are clinicians who appear to have a vested interest in vitamin C infusions. The article would have been improved by including the perspectives of individuals who are not associated with this treatment. This may have provided a clearer picture of the state of the evidence about vitamin C as a cancer treatment.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Intravenous vitamin C is presented as a viable alternative to traditional cancer treatments or as a treatment for patients for whom such treatments are not thought to have much value. While the patients depicted in the story did well, there was no data provided that give the reader a sense of whether their stories were typical or best case scenarios. Many people (even those with advanced malignancies) will have a treatment response with appropriate mainstream therapy.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

It is clear from the article that intravenous vitamin C is available at only select locations. The article points out that specialized training is required to administer the treatment and that mainstream physicians do not provide or advocate this treatment.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article explains that intravenous vitamin C used against cancer is not a new idea, but is one that has not been tested in meaningful fashion. The article does point out accurately that the use of these very high doses of vitamin C given intravenously is novel.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

There is no evidence that the story relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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