Sandeep Prabhu and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University report in the December 22, 2011 issue of the journal Blood that a compound derived from eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega 3 fatty acid that occurs in high amounts in fish, cured chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in two mouse models of the disease.
In recent research, cyclooxygenase-derived cyclopentenone prostaglandins (CyPGs) were identified as possible agents to target cancer stem cells. Currently available treatments for leukemia and other cancers fail to destroy stem cells, which results in relapses of the disease. "The patients must take the drugs continuously," noted study coauthor Robert F. Paulson, who is an associate professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences at Penn State. "If they stop, the disease relapses because the leukemia stem cells are resistant to the drugs."
For the current experiments, the researchers administered a CyPG compound known as delta-12-protaglandin J3 (D12-PGJ3, derived from EPA) to leukemic mice for one week. Animals that received the compound had normal spleens and blood counts, and increased survival without relapse after being treated. "This treatment completely eradicated leukemia stem cells in vivo, as demonstrated by the inability of donor cells from treated mice to cause leukemia in secondary transplantations," the authors write.
"Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants, but we have shown that some metabolites of omega 3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice," stated Dr Prabhu, who is an associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology at Penn State's Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences. "The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse."
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