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Avocados Could Be a New Treatment for Leukemia

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A new study out of the University of Waterloo indicates that a substance found in avocados may also be beneficial in the treatment of a type of leukemia called acute myeloid leukemia.

AML is a form of leukemia that typically affects people over the age of 45. "Acute" means that it can move fast, first starting in the bone marrow where new blood cells are formed, but then spreading out into the blood and other organs in the body.

For seniors it can be a fatal disease, taking the life of 90 percent of those over the age of 65 within five years, reported Waterloo News.com.

Professor Paul Spagnuolo from the University of Waterloo and his team have found that a lipid substance in avocados called avocatin B was able to attack and eliminate the source of AML, which develops in the stem cells.

Avocados, also known as alligator pears, are a creamy delicious fruit full of nutritious vitamins and low in saturated fat.

“The stem cell is really the cell that drives the disease,” said Professor Spagnuolo, from University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy. “The stem cell is largely responsible for the disease developing, and it’s the reason why so many patients with leukemia relapse.”

Before you run out to stock up on avocados, it is important to note that avocatin B is derived from avocado seeds, not the pulp, and that this new finding is in its preliminary stages of study and drug development, NHS.com warned.

The researchers had tested 800 compounds against human acute myeloid leukemia cells grown in a lab setting, and found that avocatin B caused the cells to die. Next, they tested avocatin B on actual samples of peripheral blood stem cells from healthy volunteers.

“The researchers then injected acute myeloid cells exposed to avocatin B into mice. They compared their ability to grow and develop in the bone marrow with acute myeloid cells that had not been exposed,” reported NHS.com.

Avocatin B was effective at causing leukemia cells to die without affecting normal peripheral blood stem cells.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Cancer Research.

Avocatin B is many years away from being used as a chemotherapy drug, but Spagnuolo has already begun preparing the drug for use in a phase I clinical trial, which would allow him to measure its effectiveness on actual patients with AML.

Spagnuolo has joined with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) and he filed a patent application for the use of the compound, named avocatin B, to treat AML.

The University of Waterloo and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada funded the study. CCRM is a not-for-profit, public-private consortium that supports the development of technologies that use stem cells and biomaterials-based technologies and therapies.


Avocados may hold the answer to beating leukemia. Waterloo News. Retrieved Sept. 19, 2015.

What is acute myeloid leukemia? American Cancer Society. Retrieved Sept. 19, 2015.

Could avocados hold the key to treating leukaemia? NHS Choices. Retrieved Sept. 19, 2015.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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