Cancer Doctor
Cancer Doctor
IV Hydrogen Peroxide icon

IV Hydrogen Peroxide

Tom Escott
— By Tom Escott on October 14, 2023

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a chemical compound that is naturally produced in the human body, widely found in nature, and has a range of different applications, and has been included in regimens for alternative cancer therapies.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a chemical compound that is naturally produced in the human body, widely found in nature, and has a range of different applications, and has been included in regimens for alternative cancer therapies.

Hydrogen peroxide is commonly known as a bleaching agent, antiseptic and disinfectant. It has potent oxidizing properties and kills almost all types of harmful pathogens [1]. It is frequently used today as a topical antibacterial or bleaching product for skin, hair or other superficial uses including wound cleaning, acne, and even skin cancer [1] [2].

It was first discovered in the 1800s and began to be used as a treatment for numerous diseases. The first scientific studies on the medical use of hydrogen peroxide appeared in the literature after World War I with impressive results on survival rates of pneumonia patients [3].

Charles H. Farr, MD, PhD, also known as the "father of oxidative medicine", popularized the therapeutic benefits of intravenous (IV) hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidative therapy, which increases tissue and cell oxygen concentrations to high levels. It also stimulates the immune system to eliminate pathogens and cancerous cells.

Dr. Farr conducted experimental research in patients and observed that IV hydrogen peroxide treatment could rapidly relieve allergic reactions, influenza symptoms, chronic candidiasis, and acute viral and bacterial infections. He also demonstrated that hydrogen peroxide had potent anti-tumor effects [3]. Many alternative practitioners believe that hydrogen peroxide is a wonder molecule and panacea for numerous conditions.

Early researchers wrongly believed that hydrogen peroxide only had toxic effects on cells in the body. Scientific research now shows that hydrogen peroxide is an essential metabolite and important signaling molecule that is involved in many of life’s most important biological processes [1] [4]. White blood cells naturally produce hydrogen peroxide as the first line of defense against infections and invading organisms such as parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi, and yea_s_ts [1].

The ability of cells to produce hydrogen peroxide is essential for life. It is not a toxic byproduct, but rather a requirement for health and survival. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamin and mineral metabolism, immunity, and other essential functions all require hydrogen peroxide.

The biological importance of hydrogen peroxide and its ability to fight infections is universally accepted. However, when it comes to oral ingestion or injections directly into the bloodstream there is controversy in the medical community. Claims of therapeutic benefits, especially for cancer, are heavily debated with some believing it is ineffective and dangerous [5].

This article seeks to provide more details about hydrogen peroxide therapy for cancer, how it works, what the science says, what the risks are, and give further insight into the claims of benefits for cancer patients.

History of IV Hydrogen Peroxide for Cancer

Hydrogen peroxide was discovered in 1818 by Louis-Jacques Thénard who calle_d it eau oxy_génée (oxygenated water). Since the 1850s hydrogen peroxide has been widely used for a range of different purposes, including bleaching, as an oxidizing agent, disinfectant in food and even fuel for rockets [6].

The first documented medical use of hydrogen peroxide was described by Love et al as an effective treatment for numerous diseases, including scarlet fever, diphtheria, whooping cough, asthma, hay fever, and tonsillitis [6] [14]. The first reports in the medical literature on the benefits of hydrogen peroxide therapy came from the doctors Oliver and Cantab. In 1920, they reported to the Lancet that intravenous infusions were used to successfully treat pneumonia patients in the epidemic following World War I. They only treated cases they deemed hopeless as there were still perceived risks around the therapy. They managed to save 50% of the patients they treated who would have almost certainly died otherwise [1] [3].

Despite promising early results, medical interest in further research into hydrogen peroxide waned in the 1940s due to the emergence of new prescription drugs and modern medicine [6]. In the 1960s, there was a resurgence of interest and studies found that hydrogen peroxide could be used to promote oxidation. This is when oxidative therapy was pioneered. Oxidative therapy is postulated to stimulate the immune system by using oxygen, ozone gas, or hydrogen peroxide and was used to treat certain cancers, skin diseases, and even polio [15].

However, Dr. Charles Farr, with the studies he conducted in the 1980s, is generally considered to be the most prominent pioneer and researcher on oxidative therapy and the intravenous infusion of hydrogen peroxide to treat a wide range of conditions [6] [3]. Later, Fr. Richard Willhelm promoted the therapeutic use of hydrogen peroxide to treat cancer. He defined hydrogen peroxide as ‘God's given immune system’[6].

Hydrogen Peroxide and Cancer Research

There is certainly controversy in the scientific literature about the use of hydrogen peroxide when ingested orally or injected intravenously. Some studies warn that the treatment, as promoted by alternative or integrative medicine practitioners, is potentially dangerous [5].

However, hydrogen peroxide is approved for topical use in concentrations of 1% to 45% for a range of clinical purposes including wound care, promoting venous insufficiency ulcer healing, acne, actinic keratoses, skin cancers and other novel applications continue to be explored [2].

Recent studies have shown that cancer cells produce hydrogen peroxide [12]. Some researchers have hypothesized that it may actually act as a fertilizer in the tumor microenvironment that fuels cancer growth. High levels of peroxides cause oxidative stress, which drives accelerated aging, DNA damage, inflammation and cancer metabolism [12].

However, catalase is the primary enzyme that detoxifies hydrogen peroxide in the body. Therefore, it is theorized that a catalase-deficiency may predispose toward the development of cancer rather than hydrogen peroxide being the culprit itself. It appears that the inability to detoxify hydrogen peroxide due to a catalase deficiency promotes tumor initiation and disease progression [12].

Research shows that hydrogen plays a vital role in normal cellular function and signaling, but at supraphysiological concentrations (more than normally occurs in the body) causes oxidative damage and cytotoxicity (toxicity to cell) [4]. Hence, hydrogen peroxide can have both positive (signaling) and negative (damage) effects depending on the level of hydrogen peroxide, enzyme activity and the cell type under investigation [4].

Clinical research shows that hydrogen peroxide has cytotoxic effects on cancer cells and can counteract tumor hypoxia, which is a major constraint in the efficacy of radiotherapy [13] [11]. These properties are exploitable for the treatment of cancer in combination with radiation therapy. A 2020 clinical trial has shown positive results in 12 patients with locally advanced breast cancer and demonstrated that local injections of hydrogen peroxide directly into tumors are a safe and simple intervention with the potential for high impact and efficacy [13].

These studies corroborate the early findings of doctors in the 1960s from the Baylor University Medical Center, TX, USA, who studied the effect of hydrogen peroxide combined with radiotherapy as a cancer treatment. The results of their studies included an 88-year-old man with squamous cell carcinoma of the cheek, who, after treatment, was alive and cancer-free 6 years later. The study also included a 29-year-old man with a fungating mass under the tongue and gangrene of the jaw who made a full recovery after treatment [1]. Both cases, under normal circumstances, would not have been expected to survive more than a few months. The researchers modestly reported that their preliminary results “suggest an improvement in the radiotherapeutic ratio” [1].

In summary, it certainly seems that hydrogen peroxide has a role to play in the treatment of cancer, but more research is still required to confirm if it is a safe and effective treatment in its own right. Evidence suggests that it may have potential therapeutic applications, is safe and effective for topical use or local injections in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Potential Applications of Hydrogen Peroxide for Cancer

Hydrogen peroxide is approved for topical use for certain dermatologic conditions and may help in the treatment of skin cancer [2]. It has been shown to be a safe and effective method to combat tumor hypoxia and improve the efficacy of conventional treatment for superficial tumors [13]. As a primary cancer treatment more research is still needed, but its immune signaling effects and anti-tumor properties may have potential therapeutic applications in cancer care.

Hydrogen peroxide treatment is an oxidative therapy that stimulates oxidation. This is believed to increase cellular energy metabolism, support detoxification, and activate the immune system to fight cancer. According to proponents of hydrogen peroxide therapy the potential benefits include:

  • Immune system activation
  • Triggers production of white blood cells, interferon, tumor necrosis factor, and other cytokines that combat infections and fight cancer.
  • Anti-viral, antibacterial and antifungal properties
  • Improves the efficiency of antioxidant enzymes
  • Increases blood and tissue oxygen levels
  • Anti-angiogenic (stops formation of new blood cells)
  • Inhibits growth of anaerobic organisms and kills pathogens
  • Kills cancer cells
  • Anti-tumor effects
  • Inhibits tumor growth
  • Helps to prevent metastases and disease progression
  • Neutralizes toxins and aids in detoxification
  • Improves mitochondrial function

Purported mechanism of action:

For many years after its discovery hydrogen peroxide was viewed as a toxic molecule to human tissues. However, more recent research informs us that it is a ubiquitous endogenous molecule of life that plays a key pro-survival role in diverse physiological processes, including the activation of immune cells to target and breakdown cancer cells [6] [7].

Hydrogen peroxide is a reactive oxygen species (ROS) that directly creates oxidative stress as a molecular oxidant and indirectly through free radical generation [8]. It is well established that oxidative stress damages cells and is associated with the onset and progression of many diseases [4]. For this reason, all aerobic (requires oxygen) organisms have antioxidant enzymes that limit oxidative stress (imbalance of ROS) and detoxify excess reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide [4]. Antioxidant enzymes have been shown to function as peroxide sensors and are emerging as key regulators of the many pathways that respond to hydrogen peroxide [4].

When a patient undergoes hydrogen peroxide therapy for cancer, it is administered intravenously, which means directly into the vein. Hydrogen peroxide enters the bloodstream and is broken down into water and oxygen by an enzyme called catalase in the plasma and white blood cells. Later, it penetrates the cell membrane of red blood cells and reacts with catalase within the cell releasing yet more oxygen [1].

The treatment increases the oxygen content of the cells and tissues to levels that parallel or exceed that of hyperbaric oxygen therapy [1]. It is a powerful pro-oxidant that has been shown to wipe out harmful pathogens and kill cancer cells in animal studies [3]. The biological killing activities and anti-cancer effects of hydrogen peroxide may also be linked to the fact that it stimulates natural killer cells and monocytes (immune cells) to produce interferon, tumor necrosis factor, and other cytokines (signaling molecules) involved in regulating cell growth and modulating the immune response to fight cancer [1].

Furthermore, it is well known that cancer thrives in a low oxygen environment. The phenomenon is called tumor hypoxia. The microenvironment of a tumor is generally characterized by low pH values, high glutathione levels, an overproduction of hydrogen peroxide and severe hypoxia. These hallmark characteristics lead to increased angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), tumor progression, metastases (cancer spread) and treatment resistance [9].

Hydrogen peroxide, once broken down by catalase, supersaturates the bloodstream and tissues with oxygen, which is believed to inhibit the growth of anaerobic organisms and cancer cells. This is known as hyperoxia, which has potential anti-tumor effects and may help to prevent disease progression [1].** **It also oxidizes toxins and biological waste products, which increases the rate of metabolism in the mitochondria (powerhouses of the cell). This increases available energy for cellular repair and regeneration [10].

Tumor hypoxia is also a major constraint in the use of radiotherapy and certain types of chemotherapy. Hydrogen peroxide is therefore also used in conjunction with conventional treatment to enhance efficacy, especially radiotherapy [11].

Risks and Side Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy

If you are considering hydrogen peroxide as an alternative therapy for cancer caution is advised. There are risks involved with hydrogen peroxide treatment and self-administration is not recommended.

In clinical settings, provided treatment guidelines are adhered to, hydrogen peroxide therapy has been shown to be relatively safe in terms of topical application, intratumoral injections and intravenous use in dilute concentrations. However, it is not advised to take hydrogen peroxide orally as this can cause serious side-effects, especially in higher concentrations, and damage the stomach [1] [3].

Injecting high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can cause:

  • Inflammation of the blood vessels at the injection site
  • Oxygen bubbles that block flood flow and lead to gas embolisms, which can be fatal
  • Destruction of red blood cells (red cell hemolysis)
  • Kidney failure

Oral ingestion of high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can cause:

  • Mouth, throat, and stomach burns
  • Ulcers
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Stomach bloating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trouble breathing

Inhaling the vapors of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide can cause breathing problems. You can also develop blisters and burns if your skin comes into contact with it [16].

Frequently asked questions about IV Hydrogen Peroxide

Is hydrogen peroxide a beneficial treatment for cancer?
Is it safe? What are the risks?
How is hydrogen peroxide administered as a cancer therapy?

The Best 25 Integrative Cancer Treatment Centers that offer IV Hydrogen Peroxide

References of IV Hydrogen Peroxide

[1] Douglass, William Campbell MD. Hydrogen Peroxide – Medical Miracle _(_H202). Rhino Publishing. Panama. 1990.

[2] Murphy EC, Friedman AJ. Hydrogen peroxide and cutaneous biology: Translational applications, benefits, and risks. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Dec;81(6):1379-1386.

[3] Farr, C. H. MD, PhD. The Therapeutic use of Intravenous Hydrogen Peroxide. A Review. Experimental Evidence of Physiological Effect and Clinical Experience. 1986.

[4] Veal, Elizabeth A. et al. Hydrogen Peroxide Sensing and Signaling. Molecular Cell, Volume 26, Issue 1, 1 – 14.

[5] Atwood, Kimball. (2007). Charles H. Farr and the purported scientific and medical rationale for intravenous hydrogen peroxide. Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. 11. 11-18.

[6] Armogida, M., Nisticò, R. and Mercuri, N.B. (2012), Therapeutic potential of targeting hydrogen peroxide metabolism in the treatment of brain ischaemia. British Journal of Pharmacology, 166: 1211-1224.

[7] Nathan CF, Cohn ZA. Antitumor effects of hydrogen peroxide in vivo. J Exp Med. 1981 Nov 1;154(5):1539-53.

[8] Murphy EC, Friedman AJ. Hydrogen peroxide and cutaneous biology: Translational applications, benefits, and risks. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Dec;81(6):1379-1386.

[9] Yang G, Ji J, Liu Z. Multifunctional MnO2 nanoparticles for tumor microenvironment modulation and cancer therapy. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. 2021 Nov;13(6):e1720.

[10] Laurinda Mordh, RN, BSN. Hydrogen Peroxide. An Oasis of Healing.

[11] Hu, R., Saito, A. I., Mitsuhashi, T., Inoue, T., Ota, T., Ujihira, T., Yoshida, K., Sasai, K."Radiosensitization using hydrogen peroxide in patients with cervical cancer". Molecular and Clinical Oncology 15.1 (2021): 142.

[12] Lisanti MP, Martinez-Outschoorn UE, Lin Z, Pavlides S, Whitaker-Menezes D, Pestell RG, Howell A, Sotgia F. Hydrogen peroxide fuels aging, inflammation, cancer metabolism and metastasis: the seed and soil also needs "fertilizer". Cell Cycle. 2011 Aug 1;10(15):2440-9.

[13] Nimalasena et al (2020). Intratumoural hydrogen peroxide with radiotherapy in locally advanced breast cancer: results from a Phase I clinical trial. International Journal of Radiation OncologyBiologyPhysics. 108. 4. 2020.

[14] Love, I. N. "PEROXIDE OF HYDROGEN AS A REMEDIAL AGENT.: Read before the St. Louis Medical Society, February 4, 18_88." Journal of the American Medical A_ssociation 10.9 (1888): 262-265.

[15] Bottaro, Angelica. What Is Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy? Exploring the grey area of oxidative therapy for cancer. Very Well Health. Sept 2021.

[16] Cafasso, Jacquelyn. Can Hydrogen Peroxide Cure Cancer? Healthline. August 2020.

Have some feedback for our website? Visit our Contact Us page or shoot us an email at [email protected]!