Vitamin C, a Multi-Tasking Molecule, Finds a Molecular Target in Killing Cancer Cells


  • Y. Robert Li School of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Campbell University, Buies Creek, NC 27506, USA; Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA; Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA; Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC 27412, USA


Cancer cell killing, Cancer therapy, Dehydroascorbate, Dehydroascorbate reductase, Glucose transporter, Glutathione, Glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase, Glycolysis, Reactive oxygen species, S-Glutathionylation, Vitamin C


Early work in the 1970s by Linus Pauling, a twice-honored Nobel laureate, led to his proposal of using high-dose vitamin C to treat cancer patients. Over the past several decades, a number of studies in animal models as well as several small-scale clinical studies have provided substantial support of Linus Pauling’s early proposal. Production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) via oxidation of vitamin C appears to be a major underlying event, leading to the selective killing of cancer cells. However, it remains unclear how vitamin C selectively kills cancer cells while sparing normal cells and what the molecular targets of high-dose vitamin C are. In a recent article published in Science (2015 December 11; 350(6266):1391-6. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa5004), Yun et al. reported that vitamin C selectively kills KRAS and BRAF mutant colorectal cancer cells by targeting glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) through an ROS-dependent mechanism. This work by Yun et al. along with other findings advances our current understanding of the molecular basis of high-dose vitamin C-mediated cancer cell killing, which will likely give an impetus to the continued research efforts aiming to further decipher the novel biochemistry of vitamin C and its unique role in cancer therapy.




How to Cite

Li, Y. R. (2016). Vitamin C, a Multi-Tasking Molecule, Finds a Molecular Target in Killing Cancer Cells. Reactive Oxygen Species, 1(2), 141–156. Retrieved from