The compound, delta-12-protaglandin J3, or D12-PGJ3 targeted and killed the stem cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, in mice, according to Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology in the Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences.
“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,” he noted.
Penn State researchers said that 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 stated.
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, he explained.
Robert Paulson, associate professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, who co—directed this research with Prabhu said that 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.
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.
The study has been recently published in Blood.