Avocados May Be Next Big Thing In Fight Against Leukemia

By Dianne Depra | Jun 16, 2015 10:04 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered that there's more to like in avocados, showing that molecules can be derived from the fruit and used in treating leukemia.

Acute myeloid leukemia is a devastating disease that has been proven fatal to 90 percent of patients over 65 years old. The avocado-derived drug has the potential to significantly increase quality of life expectancy in AML patients by targeting leukemia stem cells, the primary cause of the disease.

Paul Spagnuolo and colleagues performed numerous round of testing to study how the drug works the molecular level, confirming that it homes in on targeted stem cells and leaves healthy cells unharmed.

Partnering with the Center for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, the researchers have filed a patent application for avocatin B, the compound they've derived from avocados to treat AML. CCRM is a nonprofit, public-private consortium supporting developing technologies designed to accelerate commercialization for treatments based on stem cells and other biomaterials.

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Avocatin B is years away from being actually used as an oncological treatment but the researchers are taking the next step by preparing for a Phase I clinical trial. In particular, they are applying research processes specifically used for nutraceuticals or compounds derived from food.

Most labs use extracts from plants or food but the researchers prefer the precision brought about by the defined structures of nutraceuticals.

"Evaluating a nutraceutical as a potential clinical drug requires in-depth evaluation at the molecular level," explained Spagnuolo, adding that opting for nutraceutical processes offers a clearer understanding of how the avocatin B works that will make it possible for the compound's effects to be reproduced more consistently and accurately.

Had the researchers chosen to work with extracts, they will have to deal with a compound that is less refined due to variations from plant to plant and year to year as well as other factors like the amount of available sunlight, the level of rain and the quality of the soil.

Published in the journal Cancer Research, the study received funding support from the Lymphoma Society of Canada and the University of Waterloo. Other researchers involved include: Eric A. Lee, Aaron D. Schimmer, Leonard Angka, Joe Quadrilatero, Sarah-Grace Rota, Jamie W. Joseph, Janusz Pawliszyn, Thomas Hanlon, Andrea Edginton, Andrew Mitchell, Jeffery L. Wrana, Rose Hurren, Alessandro Datti, Xiao Ming Wang, Shrivani Sriskanthadevan, Marcela Gronda, Mark Minden, Ezel Boyaci and Barbara Bojko.

Photo: Jaanus Silla | Flickr 

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