Last year while I was working at Edinburgh University on some research for a new product I came across a paper written by Linus Pauling. Pauling was a Swedish / American scientist who twice won the Nobel Prize.
Now I don’t know the reasons as to why in 1970 he arrived in Scotland or indeed what drew him to the Vale of Leven Hospital in Dumbarton, near Glasgow in the west of Scotland, but the fact is that he arrived there. The hospital had a ward full of people who had terminal cancer – about 60 people in all.
Clyde Ship Building
In those days we still had the ship-breaking yards in Dalmuir on the river Clyde (not too far from Dumbarton) and where the men in the yard used to play snowballs with the asbestos that they were stripping from the lagging on the pipes on the ships they were breaking up. Sadly, these men were blissfully unaware that the asbestos would give them the mesothelioma that was now going to kill them – nor indeed did the employers have anything in place to prevent them from breathing in the deadly microscopic flakes.
Additionally in those days most people smoked and much like my dad (who thankfully eventually gave up the cigarettes – and lived to 97) they used a popular brand known as Woodbine. Some would smoke as many as 60 cigarettes every day and many of them ended their days in the cancer ward in a hospital such as Vale of Leven.
Pauling managed to convince the NHS to run a small-scale study and so he split the 60 or so people in the ward into two groups. Sadly, each participant had terminal cancer and 90% were going to die within three months.
Vitamin C Study
Pauling knew that the bowel intolerance to vitamin C (ascorbic acid) was 16 thousand milligrams (about half a teaspoon) and so he gave half of the people 12,000 milligrams as a daily dose, knowing that this would not upset their stomach. The others got a ‘smartie’ – a pretend dose of vitamin ’C’.
What happened then was that those who had been given the placebo all died within the six months – while some of the others who had all taken the high dose of vitamin ‘C’ lived for a much longer period. Indeed, five were still living with a survival period of greater than 610 days when the report was written (10 July 1974).
Pauling, armed with the result of his little study went back to the drug companies that he worked for and asked if that they would look more carefully at his results and run a clinical trial involving thousands of cancer sufferers.
However, the drug companies told him that the recipe for ascorbic acid was generic – anyone could make it, and there was no money it for them! They told him to forget all about it and return to the USA to work on research that would earn them the millions of dollars they looked for. The plan was abandoned.
Vitamin ‘C’ is not a miraculous cure for cancer, but I find it appalling that this information was in a way suppressed, when it would seem that this simple, cheap, harmless powder, which could be bought in any chemist-shop and found in many of our foods may have its part to play in the recovery from cancer.
Of course Pauling’s study may have been a fluke, but without a proper study (clinical trial) we will never know.
The problem is that we would need to convince the Government in the UK to pay for such a study. We can’t be sure this would happen but we would love to see politicians looking firstly at the health of the people they represent before profitability and wealth.
For more reading on this study and about Linus Pauling, the ISBN for Pauling’s book (Cancer and Vitamin C) is 0-940159-21-X. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954 and for Peace in 1963.