Scientists from the medical sciences division at Penn State University have discovered that a compound in fish oil appears to target leukemia stem cells and could lead to a cure for the disease. The compound is a natural extract from EPA, the Omega-3 fat component found most commonly in fish and fish oil supplements. Known as delta-12-protaglandin J3, or D12-PGJ3, the molecule is shown to target and kill the stem cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia, a common form of the disease.
Extensive research from past studies has shown that Omega-3 fats are critical to cardiovascular and brain health. This new evidence supports the regular intake of EPA omega-3 fats to selectively kill leukemia-causing stem cells that could prevent and possibly even provide a cure for this devastating disease.
Omega-3 Fat Compound Shown to Kill Stem Cells Necessary for Leukemia Progression
The research, currently being conducted on mice that exhibit metabolic characteristics similar to humans, shows that some metabolites of Omega-3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells. Scientists determined that D12-PGJ3 kills cancer-causing stem cells in the mice's spleen and bone marrow. Specifically, it activates a gene known as p53 in the leukemia stem cell that programs the cells own death in a process called apoptosis.
The p53 gene is a well known “tumor suppressor gene that regulates the response to DNA damage and maintains genomic stability”, noted lead study author Dr. Sandeep Prabhu. The D12-PDJ3 compound kills the leukemic stem cells (leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells), an important step to prevent the development and division of white blood cells that can be used to propagate new cancerous tissue.
Long-Chain Omega Fats Help Regenerate White Blood Cells to Prevent Leukemia
Current drug therapies are ineffective as they only attempt to keep the number of leukemia cells low, and carry many dangerous and sometimes fatal side effects. Drug therapy for leukemia patients fails to completely cure the disease because they do not target the source of new leukemia stem cells. Current treatments are unable to kill the leukemia stem cells and fall short of providing an effective cure for the disease.
The Omega-3 EPA fat compound, D12-PDJ3 targets regeneration of white blood stem cells, an essential step necessary to cure leukemia. The authors noted there were no side effects from administering the natural fat compound. Researchers from Penn State indicated that the compound would shortly move to human trials, with similar results anticipated. Long chain omega fats have been documented to promote human health and prevent chronic illnesses ranging from heart disease and dementia to metabolic syndrome and stroke. EPA fat compounds (500 mg per day) may help prevent and treat leukemia and other cancer lines dependent on stem cells to replicate and metastasize.