The only fat containing fruit, avocado contains molecules, which could be effective in treating a form of blood cancer.
Professor Paul Spagnuolo from the University of Waterloo has discovered a lipid in avocados that combats acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by targeting the root of the disease, leukemia stem cells.
"The stem cell is really the cell that drives the disease. It is responsible for the disease developing and it's the reason why so many patients with leukemia relapse," said Prof Spagnuolo.
AML is a devastating disease and proves fatal within five years for 90% of seniors over age 65. Spagnuolo's new avocado-derived drug could one day significantly increase life expectancy and quality of life for AML patients.
"We've performed many rounds of testing to determine how this new drug works at a molecular level and confirmed that it targets stem cells selectively, leaving healthy cells unharmed."
Prof Spagnuolo has filed a patent application for the use of the compound, named avocatin B, to treat AML through partnership with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM).
"It's an exciting time for our lab. With the help of CCRM we are now pursuing commercial partnership that would take avocatin B into clinical trials," said Prof Spagnuolo. "Not only does avocatin B eliminate the source of AML, but its targeted, selective effects make it less toxic to the body, too."
There are multiple potential applications for Avocatin B beyond oncology, and the drug is just one of several promising compounds.
Spagnuolo believes that using the molecule is far better than the extract as it can be quantified. "Evaluating a nutraceutical as a potential clinical drug requires in-depth evaluation at the molecular level. This approach provides a clearer understanding of how the nutraceutical works, and it means we can reproduce the effects more accurately and consistently. This is critical to safely translating our lab work into a reliable drug that could be used in oncology clinics."