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us scientists have found a daisy-like plant common in gardens across North America can kill the cells that cause leukaemia or blood cancer. While current treatments target the cancerous cells, the Bachelor's Button or Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is perhaps unique in eliminating the very cells (stem cells) from which the cancerous ones derive, thus addressing the problem at its origin. The plant's major active component is parthenolide (ptl). The study by the University of Rochester Medical Centre's James P Wilmot Cancer Centre was published in the February 1 online edition of Blood.
Leukaemia is either acute or chronic. In acute leukaemia, the abnormal blood cells remain immature and cannot carry out their normal functions. In chronic leukaemia, cells are more mature and can carry out their normal functions. "Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is more common among people below 20 years and can occur within 2-6 weeks whereas chronic myeloid leukaemia occurs within a minimum time span of 3-6 months to 1-3 years," remarks Lalit Kumar, additional professor of Medical Oncology, Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Under the study, Monica L Guzman and her colleagues compared how leukaemia stem cells reacted to ptl, versus a common chemotherapy drug called cytarabine. They found ptl selectively killed the leukaemia cells while sparing the normal cells better than cytarabine. If used in combination with a fatty acid called prostaglandin found in the body, ptl's role was enhanced, the scientists say. But Guzman cautions, " ptl is not a very soluble compound and consequently is not easily absorbed by the body. However, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Kentucky, we are developing ptl derivatives that may possess more suitable pharmacological properties."