Fish oil may hold key to leukemia cure

December 22, 2011

A compound produced from fish oil that appears to target leukemia stem cells could lead to a cure for the disease, according to Penn State researchers. The compound -- delta-12-protaglandin J3, or D12-PGJ3 -- targeted and killed the stem cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, in mice, said Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology in the Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences. The compound is produced from EPA -- Eicosapentaenoic Acid -- an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and in fish oil, he said.

"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," said Prabhu. "The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse."

The researchers, who released their findings in the current issue of Blood, said the compound kills cancer-causing stem cells in the mice's spleen and bone marrow. Specifically, it activates a gene -- p53 -- in the leukemia stem cell that programs the cell's own death. "p53 is a tumor suppressor gene that regulates the response to DNA damage and maintains genomic stability," Prabhu said.

Killing the stem cells in leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, is important because stem cells can divide and produce more cancer cells, as well as create more stem cells, Prabhu said.

The current therapy for CML extends the patient's life by keeping the number of leukemia cells low, but the drugs fail to completely cure the disease because they do not target leukemia stem cells, said Robert Paulson, associate professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, who co-directed this research with Prabhu.

"The patients must take the drugs continuously," said Paulson. "If they stop, the disease relapses because the leukemia stem cells are resistant to the drugs."

Current treatments are unable to kill the leukemia stem cells, Paulson noted. "These stem cells can hide from the treatment, and a small population of stem cells give rise to more leukemia cells," said Paulson. "So, targeting the stem cells is essential if you want to cure leukemia."

During the experiments, the researchers injected each mouse with about 600 nanograms of D12-PGJ3 each day for a week. Tests showed that the mice were completely cured of the disease. The blood count was normal, and the spleen returned to normal size. The disease did not relapse.

In previous experiments, the compound also killed the stem cells of Friend Virus-induced leukemia, an experimental model for human leukemia.

The researchers focused on D12-PGJ3 because it killed the leukemia stem cells, but had the least number of side effects. The researchers currently are working to determine whether the compound can be used to treat the terminal stage of CML, referred to as Blast Crisis. There are currently no drugs available that can treat the disease when it progresses to this stage.
-end-
The researchers, who applied for a patent, are also preparing to test the compound in human trials.

Penn State

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.