Plant Derivative Kills Leukemia Progenitor Cells

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Parthenolide, a chemical that is derived from the feverfew plant, destroys acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, leaving normal hematopoietic cells relatively unscathed. Moreover, by also killing AML progenitor and stem cells, the agent may get at the root of the disease.

"This research is a very important step in setting the stage for future development of a new therapy for leukemia," senior author Dr. Craig T. Jordan, from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York, said in a statement. "We have proof that we can kill leukemia stem cells with this type of agent, and that is good news."

The findings, which appear in the February 1st online issue of Blood, are based on an in vitro analysis of parthenolide's destructive effects.

The chemical showed strong apoptotic activity against primary human AML cells as well as blast crisis chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) cells. Further analysis revealed that parthenolide selectively targets progenitor and stem cell populations. In fact, this agent was found to be much more specific to leukemia cells than the standard chemotherapy drug Ara-C.

The authors note that parthenolide appears to induce apoptosis by mechanisms involving NF-kappaB, activation of p53, and an increase in reactive oxygen species.

Thus, the investigators conclude that parthenolide is representative of "a potentially important new class of drugs for leukemia stem cell targeted therapy."

Source: Blood 2005. [ Google search on this article ]

MeSH Headings: Bone Marrow Cells : Hematopoietic Stem Cells : Leukemia, Myelocytic, Acute : Tumor Stem Cells : Leukemia, Nonlymphocytic, Acute

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