Issue Date: April 16, 2012
Natural Product Makes Leukemia Cells Less Harmful
A diterpenoid isolated from a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine can push cancerous blood cells to differentiate into less harmful cells, according to researchers led by Guo-Qiang Chen of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (Nat. Chem. Biol., DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.935). Chen and coworkers were investigating adenanthin, a molecule isolated from a plant called Rabdosia adenantha, and found that it inhibits two peroxiredoxin proteins in leukemia cells. Blocking the proteins leads to an increase in H2O2 in the cells, which kick-starts a sequence of signaling pathways that results in the differentiation of the cancerous blood cells into benign ones. Pushing leukemia cells to differentiate is already a cancer-fighting treatment, but the leukemia cells eventually develop resistance to the current drug, all-trans retinoic acid. The researchers suggest drugmakers may want to consider adenanthin as a cancer-fighting candidate. They also point out that adenanthin’s ability to target peroxiredoxins adds to the molecule’s therapeutic potential for other cancers besides leukemia, because peroxiredoxins are considered possible targets for treatments against solid tumors.
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