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Vitamin C might treat cancer, says biochemistry professor

February 14, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849 

Why do humans age? How does the brain work?

These are what Biochemistry Professor Roc Ordman considers to be the biggest questions in science, and for years he has been trying to answer those questions by researching vitamin C’s role in nutrition and aging.

His work with vitamin C has garnered attention in places such as USA Today (Oct. 18, 1994) for his recommendation of a twice-a-day 500 milligram dose of vitamin C to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases of aging.

Most recently, Ordman used his sabbatical in the fall of 2011 to research the vitamin, including how it might be used as a potential treatment for cancer and, in particular, bladder cancer.

He had read that cancer cells die while regular cells survive when both are put in a petri dish with vitamin C. Ordman, however, encountered a problem: the kidneys filter out the vitamin C before it can attack the cancer cells in most of the body. This problem may not exist with bladder cancer, though, because the kidneys will put the vitamin C in the bladder where it might be able to kill the cancer cells. Ordman also believes that with other cancers this problem may be fixed by administering vitamin C intravenously.

Ordman’s research last semester focused on figuring out how much vitamin C needs to be taken and at what frequency to achieve the greatest effectiveness in destroying cancer cells. He has been working with Dr. Tracy Downs on this project. Ordman and Downs, an associate professor and director of the bladder cancer and intravesical therapy programs at University of Wisconsin-Madison, are currently trying to get a clinical trial to test the results of their research on bladder cancer, and, ultimately, other cancers as well.

“If I could come up with a cure for [bladder cancer], it’d be a pretty big deal,” says Ordman, adding that he is excited about the prospect.

Ordman plans to present his research on cancer treatment so far at the American Aging Association (AGE) conference in Fort Worth, Texas this June. In addition to his research on vitamin C’s role in minimizing aging, Ordman believes a simple mindset is also vital.

“Let age be cursed for it lacks passion,” Ordman says, quoting Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling (1843). “What that says is not that when you get old you lose passion, but when you lose passion, you’re old.”

Source:  Alfred “Roc” Ordman is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. He teaches courses on nutrition and consciousness. Ordman runs a blog,, where he frequently posts summaries of the latest news in nutrition and health. At the blog, you can sign up to receive the latest nutrition headlines. Ordman has traveled throughout the U.S. and 22 foreign countries and worked in places like Israel, Switzerland, and Kenya. Outside of teaching, Ordman enjoys singing. Ordman can serve as a media contact for topics related to his research and teaching.