Can A Daisy Kill Leukemia?

Interesting research has discovered the daisy-like plant known as Feverfew (Bachelor's Button), a common plant found in gardens all over North America, may be the source of parthenolide, a chemical that can kill human leukemia stem cells like no other single therapy.

Feverfew has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy to reduce fevers and inflammation, prevent migraine headaches and ease symptoms from arthritis. However, scientists are careful to point out a patient stricken with leukemia wouldn't be able to take enough of this herbal remedy to halt the disease.

Researchers began investigating Feverfew after other scientists showed that it prevented some skin cancers in animal models. Intrigued by the plant's anti-tumor activities, scientists analyzed how a concentrated form of parthenolide would act on the most primitive types of acute myelogenous leukemia cells, chronic myelogenous leukemia cells and normal cells. Their experiments also compared how human leukemia stem cells reacted to parthenolide, versus cytarabine, a common chemotherapy drug.

Parthenolide selectively killed the leukemia cells while sparing the normal cells better than chemotherapy. Scientists believe parthenolide might also make cancer more sensitive to other anti-tumor agents because they able to recreate the molecular pathways that allow parthenolide to cause apoptosis (cancer cell death).

Although this news sounds good on the surface, scientists say the next step is creating a useable, pharmaceutical compound from pathenolide, meaning a drug.

Science Blog February 23, 2005

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