Rich, creamy, nutritious, and now cancer fighting. New research reveals that molecules derived from avocados could be effective in treating a form of cancer. This study was published in Cancer Research (2015; doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-2676).

Professor Paul Spagnuolo, PhD, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, has discovered a lipid in avocados that combats acute myeloid leukemia (AML) by targeting the root of the disease: leukemia stem cells. Worldwide, there are few drug treatments available to patients that target leukemia stem cells.

AML is a devastating disease and proves fatal within 5 years for 90% of seniors older than 65 years. Spagnuolo’s new avocado-derived drug could one day significantly increase life expectancy and quality of life for patients with AML.

“The stem cell is really the cell that drives the disease,” said Spagnuolo, in Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy. “The stem cell is largely responsible for the disease developing and it’s the reason why so many patients with leukemia relapse. We’ve performed many rounds of testing to determine how this new drug works at a molecular level and confirmed that it targets stem cells selectively, leaving healthy cells unharmed.”

“It’s an exciting time for our lab. With the help of CCRM we are now pursuing commercial partnership that would take Avocatin B into clinical trials,” said Spagnuolo, who has filed a patent application for the use of the compound to treat AML. “Not only does Avocatin B eliminate the source of AML, but its targeted, selective effects make it less toxic to the body, too.”

This article originally appeared on ONA