A daisy-like plant known as feverfew, found in gardens across North America, is the source of an agent that kills human leukemia stem cells like no other single therapy, say scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center. They say it will take months before a useable compound can be made from parthenolide, the main component in feverfew.
“This research is a very important step in setting the stage for future development of a new therapy for leukemia,” says study co-author Craig T. Jordan, PhD. “We have proof that we can kill leukemia stem cells with this type of agent, and that is good news.”
Parthenolide is the first single agent known to act on myeloid leukemia at the stem-cell level, which is significant because current cancer treatments do not strike deep enough to kill mutant cells where the malignancy is born.
In other words, even the most progressive leukemia treatment, a relatively new drug called Gleevec, is effective only to a degree. It does not reach the stem cells, so “you’re pulling the weed without getting to the root,” Jordan says.
Feverfew has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy to reduce fevers and inflammation, to prevent migraine headaches, and to ease symptoms from arthritis. (A person with leukemia, however, would not be able to take enough of the herbal remedy to halt the disease.)
University of Rochester, Feb 11, 2005