A lipid found in avocados could be used to treat a form of cancer.
It is always surprising how many secrets nature still has in store for us. Who would have thought that the Avocado is not just fantastic to eat as Guacamole, but it contains also a cancer fighting lipid.
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Professor Paul Spagnuolo from the University of Waterloo has discovered a lipid in avocados that fights acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by targeting leukemia stem cells, which are the root of the disease.
AML is a deadly disease and proves fatal within five years for 90% of seniors over age 65. The new avocado-derived drug has the potential to significantly increase life expectancy and quality of life for AML patients.
"The stem cell is really the cell that drives the disease," said Professor Spagnuolo, in Waterloo's School of Pharmacy. "The stem cell is largely responsible for the disease developing and it's the reason why so many patients with leukemia relapse. We've performed many rounds of testing to determine how this new drug works at a molecular level and confirmed that it targets stem cells selectively, leaving healthy cells unharmed."
Professor Spagnuolo's research has been published in Cancer Research. Through partnership with the Center for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) he has also filed a patent application for the use of the compound, named avocatin B, to treat AML.
"It's an exciting time for our lab. With the help of CCRM we are now pursuing commercial partnership that would take avocatin B into clinical trials," said Professor Spagnuolo. "Not only does avocatin B eliminate the source of AML, but its targeted, selective effects make it less toxic to the body, too."
So will avocatin B be one day an effective Leukemia treatment. It is early days. The development of the drug is still years away from becoming approved. Professor Spagnuolo is currently preparing experiments for a Phase I clinical trial.
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The research titled "Targeting Mitochondria with Avocatin B Induces Selective Leukemia Cell Death" has been published here.