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   Jun 17

How avocado could help fight CANCER: Fat from the fruit ‘targets leukaemia cells and stops them growing’ – raising hopes for a new drug

Fat from avocados could combat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Fat targets leukaemia stem cells and stops them growing abnormally

Researchers say it could prolong life of leukaemia sufferers

AML is a deadly form of cancer that proves fatal within 5 years for 90 per cent of people over the age of 65

They are delicious in guacamole or cut up in salads, and we’ve long been told they’re a healthy form of fat.

But now, scientists believe avocados could help in the fight against cancer.

A new study has revealed fat from the creamy fruit can combat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a rare but deadly form of the disease.

Fat molecules from avocado tackles leukaemia stem cells, which are the root of the disease, as they grow into abnormal blood cells, Canadian researchers said.

Worldwide, there are few drugs that tackle leukaemia stem cells.

In light of the findings, the researchers hope to create an avocado-derived drug they say could one day significantly increase life expectancy and quality of life for AML patients.

AML is a devastating disease and proves fatal within five years for 90 per cent of people over the age of 65.

In healthy people, stem cells in the bone marrow divide and grow to form fully developed mature red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells.

In patients with AML, this process goes awry.

Rather than forming into healthy red blood cells, many abnormal leukaemia cells are made.

These are immature cells that aren’t able to develop into normal functioning blood cells.

The researchers discovered the fat molecule from avocados, called avocatin B, is able to stop this process, targeting stem cells so healthy blood cells are able to grow.

Professor Paul Spagnuolo, from the University of Waterloo, said: ‘The stem cell is really the cell that drives the disease.

‘The stem cell is largely responsible for the disease developing and it’s the reason why so many patients with leukaemia relapse.

‘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.

Professor Paul Spagnuolo from the University of Waterloo has discovered a lipid in avocados that combats acute myeloid leukemia by targeting the root of the disease – leukemia stem cells
‘Not only does avocatin B eliminate the source of AML, but its targeted, selective effects make it less toxic to the body, too.’

Professor Spagnuolo has teamed up with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), in Toronto, and filed a patent application for the use of avocatin B to treat AML.

The drug is still years away from becoming approved for use in cancer clinics, but Professor Spagnuolo is already performing experiments to prepare the drug for a Phase I clinical trial.

This is the first round of trials where people diagnosed with AML could have access to the drug.

The research was published in the journal Cancer Research.


Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells. Acute leukaemia means the condition progresses rapidly and aggressively, requiring immediate treatment.

Acute Myeloid Leukeamia (AML) is a form of the cancer in which the myeloid cells are affected.

Myeloid cells perform a number of different functions, such as fighting bacterial infections, defending the body against parasites and preventing the spread of tissue damage.

The fat molecule from avocados tackles leukaemia stem cells, stopping them from growing abnormally. Pictured is a blood smear of AML under the microscope
The fat molecule from avocados tackles leukaemia stem cells, stopping them from growing abnormally. Pictured is a blood smear of AML under the microscope
AML occurs when specialised cells called stem cells, which are found in the bone marrow (a spongy material inside the bones), produce excessive numbers of immature white blood cells. These immature cells are known as blast cells.

Blast cells don’t have the infection-fighting properties of healthy white blood cells, and their excessive production can lead to a decrease in the number of red blood cells (which carry oxygen in the blood) and platelets (cells that help the blood to clot).

Source: NHS Choices/Daily Mail

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