The vitamin feeds stem cells that suppress the development of leukaemia, one research group found, and it also communicates with faulty stem cells in the bone marrow, and stops them from developing and causing blood cancers.
Stem cells need large amounts of vitamin C in order to function healthily, which could explain why it is that cancer victims are often low in the vitamin, say researchers from the UT Southwestern Medical Centre.
Stem cells that regulate blood in the bone marrow become damaged if they don't have enough ascorbate (vitamin C), which, in turn, increases the risk of leukaemia. It explains why older patients develop a pre-cancerous condition known as clonal hematopoiesis, and which can develop into leukaemia.
Researchers from New York University's school of medicine have also been working on the role the vitamin plays in feeding the stem cells in bone marrow. They've discovered the vitamin's specific role is as a communication medium that gets the message to faulty cells in particular to mature and die. But without adequate amounts of the vitamin, the cells develop until they eventually cause blood cancers.
They estimate that around 2.5 per cent of all cancer victims may be suffering from stem cell mutations that 'didn't get the message' to die—and so are low in the vitamin.