Research conducted at Penn State University has discovered that a compound found in fish oils appears to target leukemia stem cells. The claim is that this compound could be used to formulate a cure for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and possibly others.
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer (or bone marrow cancer) that causes an increase in production of immature white blood cells, e.g. lymphoblasts. It is technically an umbrella term for a number of cancers of the blood, such as: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphoblastic Leukemia (CLL), Hairy Cell Leukemia, Adult T-Cell Leukemia etc.
The researchers found that a compound known as, delta-12-prostaglandin J3 (or D12-PGJ3) specifically targeted and killed the stem cells of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) in the bone marrow and spleen of mice. The compound is derived from EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) an omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oils and in some food. Omega 3 fatty acids are known for their myriad of health benefits from improving cardiovascular health to aiding fat loss, now the ability to directly target leukemia stem cells can be added to the list.
The mechanism by which D12-PGJ3 kills the aforementioned stem cells is by targeting the p53 gene. Activation of p53 inititates apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cells where it is functioning correctly. In roughly 50% of cancers it can be observed that p53 has been mutated or inactivated. When the cell detects gene abnormality or DNA damage at one of the check points in the cell cycle or by another mechanism p53 will usually be activated (in healthy cells) and cause eventual apoptosis of the cell.
D12-PGJ3′s ability to kill leukemia stem cells is extremely beneficial; leukemia spreads through the rapid proliferation of leukemia stem cells. If they are killed then there’s no way for it to continue growing and spreading. The current treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia lowers the leukemia cell count but is unable to completely eradicate the illness because it does not specifically target the leukemia stem cells. As a result, patients must continously take the chemotherapy drugs in order to prevent a relapse as leukemia stem cells are resistant to them. This, as with most chemotherapy drugs, comes with it’s own side effects and is not good for the patient’s quality of life.
This points the question of curing leukemia directly at eradicated the leukemia stem cells. New treatments must contain a targeted therapy for the removal or said stem cells otherwise the disease will not be fully treated.
On another note, this compound, D12-PGJ3, has also been shown to induce apoptosis in the stem cells for Friend Virus-induced Leukemia.
This compound is awaiting the go-ahead for human trials.
If anyone is interested in using fish oils you can get some here.