30 October 2019

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

Gillberg, L., Ørskov, A. D., Nasif, A., Ohtani, H., Madaj, Z., Hansen, J. W., Rapin, N., Mogensen, J. B., Liu, M., Dufva, I. H., Lykkesfeldt, J., Hajkova, P., Jones, P. A. & Grønbæk, K. (2019). Oral vitamin C supplementation to patients with myeloid cancer on azacitidine treatment: Normalization of plasma vitamin C induces epigenetic changesClinical Epigenetics11, 1-11. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0739-5

Abstract

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.