Adding to the benefits of avocados, scientists have found that the nutritious fruit may hold the key to beating deadly leukemia. University of Waterloo Professor Paul Spagnuolo has discovered a lipid in avocados that combats acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by targeting the root of the disease – leukemia stem cells. Worldwide, there are few drug treatments available to patients that target leukemia stem cells.
AML is a devastating disease and proves fatal within five years for 90 per cent of seniors over age 65.
Spagnuolo said that the stem cell is largely responsible for the disease developing and it’s the reason why so many patients with leukemia relapse. They performed many rounds of testing to determine how the new drug worked at a molecular level and confirmed that it targets stem cells selectively, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
He added that not only does avocatin B eliminate the source of AML, but its targeted, selective effects makes it less toxic to the body, too.
The drug is still years away from becoming approved for use in oncology clinics, but Spagnuolo is already performing experiments to prepare the drug for a Phase I clinical trial.
Spagnuolo is among only a handful of researchers worldwide, applying the pharmaceutical industry’s rigorous drug discovery research processes to food-derived compounds, called nutraceuticals.
The research is published in the journal Cancer Research.