Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology at Pennsylvania State University, said the compound -- delta-12-protaglandin J3, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oil -- targeted and killed the stem cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia in mice.
"Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants, but we have shown that some metabolites of omega-3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice," Prabhu said in a statement. "The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse."
The study, published in the journal Blood, said the compound kills cancer-causing stem cells in the spleen and bone marrow by activating a gene -- p53 -- in the leukemia stem cell that programs the cell's own death.
"The gene is a tumor suppressor gene that regulates the response to DNA damage and maintains genomic stability," Prabhu said.