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VCU Massey Cancer Center


Massey researcher investigating vitamin C as a potential COVID-19 treatment

A clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of high-dose intravenous vitamin C (HDIVC) to treat COVID-19 and reduce the need for intensive care was co-developed by a Massey researcher and is underway at the Hunter Holmes Mcguire Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the McGuire Research Institute.

Howard Li, M.D., a member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center, assisted in the clinical trial’s development and will serve as an investigator.

“The goal of the treatment is to minimize the impact of coronavirus on lung tissue, where the virus is reportedly doing the most damage,” said Li, a pulmonologist at the McGuire VA Medical Center and an associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine. “By giving vitamin C infusions as soon as a COVID-19 patient requires oxygen, we hope to demonstrate that this approach is safe, well tolerated and will reduce the number of ICU beds and ventilators needed.” 

For the study, HDIVC will be administered every two hours over four days to veterans hospitalized at the McGuire VA Medical Center who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and receiving oxygen therapy.

Li is collaborating with the principal investigator of the study, Brian Davis, M.D., a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at the McGuire VA Medical Center. Davis cites previous research conducted by Alpha A. “Berry” Fowler III, M.D., a professor in the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine

Fowler found in a three-year study that patients with sepsis, a bodywide inflammatory response to infection, and septic lung injury had a better chance of survival and recovery when treated with vitamin C infusions. 

Based on this data, Davis hypothesizes that the administration of HDIVC may reduce the risk of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which can lead to respiratory failure and death. 

About 20 veterans are anticipated to sign up for phase 1 of the study. Individuals are not eligible to participate if they have chronic conditions such as kidney problems or diabetes. 

“If we find that HDIVC demonstrates clinical efficacy or biological activity in patients with COVID-19, we will develop a larger, phase 3 clinical trial,” said Li.

Additional study details are available on the National Institute of Health’s website. If you are interested in enrolling in the study or have questions, please contact 804-675-5000, ext 6733 or


Written by: Melissa Mitchell

Posted on: June 12, 2020

Category: COVID-19 news