Oral vitamin C supplementation to patients with myeloid cancer on azacitidine treatment: Normalization of plasma vitamin C induces epigenetic changes

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BACKGROUND: Patients with haematological malignancies are often vitamin C deficient, and vitamin C is essential for the TET-induced conversion of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), the first step in active DNA demethylation. Here, we investigate whether oral vitamin C supplementation can correct vitamin C deficiency and affect the 5hmC/5mC ratio in patients with myeloid cancers treated with DNA methyltransferase inhibitors (DNMTis). RESULTS: We conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled pilot trial (NCT02877277) in Danish patients with myeloid cancers performed during 3 cycles of DNMTi-treatment (5-azacytidine, 100 mg/m2/d for 5 days in 28-day cycles) supplemented by oral dose of 500 mg vitamin C (n = 10) or placebo (n = 10) daily during the last 2 cycles. Fourteen patients (70%) were deficient in plasma vitamin C (< 23 μM) and four of the remaining six patients were taking vitamin supplements at inclusion. Global DNA methylation was significantly higher in patients with severe vitamin C deficiency (< 11.4 μM; 4.997 vs 4.656% 5mC relative to deoxyguanosine, 95% CI [0.126, 0.556], P = 0.004). Oral supplementation restored plasma vitamin C levels to the normal range in all patients in the vitamin C arm (mean increase 34.85 ± 7.94 μM, P = 0.0004). We show for the first time that global 5hmC/5mC levels were significantly increased in mononuclear myeloid cells from patients receiving oral vitamin C compared to placebo (0.037% vs - 0.029%, 95% CI [- 0.129, - 0.003], P = 0.041). CONCLUSIONS: Normalization of plasma vitamin C by oral supplementation leads to an increase in the 5hmC/5mC ratio compared to placebo-treated patients and may enhance the biological effects of DNMTis. The clinical efficacy of oral vitamin C supplementation to DNMTis should be investigated in a large randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02877277 . Registered on 9 August 2016, retrospectively registered.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)143-153
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Azacitidine, Epigenetics, Hydroxymethylcytosine, Myeloid cancer, Vitamin C

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