Backyard treatment may yield leukemia treatment

COLUMBUS , Ohio -- Scientists here have identified a new pathway in the progression of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). They also discovered that an extract from the root of a common ornamental plant can suppress the process.

The findings, appearing in the November issue of Cancer Cell, may yield new treatment options for the estimated 4,600 people in the United States who are expected to develop CML this year especially those with advanced disease, or those who become resistant to the drug Gleevec.

The promising new extract is forskolin, which comes from the root of the plant coleus forskohlii, a native of India that is used in the United States as an ornamental plant.

Early results on CML patient cells both in culture and in mice showed that forskolin reduced the cancer cells' ability to grow by up to 90 percent.

"We believe these are significant findings," said Danilo Perrotti, a member of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center 's Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program and an assistant professor in the department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics. "We have uncovered a key process that underlies progression in CML and identified an agent that can block it. We also have shown that forskolin can reinstate normal cell functioning, even in Gleevec-resistant cells that do not respond to any treatment currently available."

CML arises when two chromosomes 9 and 22 mistakenly exchange genetic material during cell division. The translocation creates a new, fused gene (called BCR-ABL), that produces a cancer-causing enzyme called Bcr-Abl. Bcr-Abl permanently "turns on" cell growth signals that are normally held in check by molecules called phosphatases, and the result is the uncontrolled production of white blood cells, the hallmark of CML.

Patients with the earliest form of the disease called the chronic phase may not even be aware they are sick. If the disease is discovered early, it al

Contact: Michelle Gailiun
Ohio State University

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