Ajoene (natural garlic compound): a new anti-leukaemia agent for AML therapy.
Leuk Res. 2004 Jul;28(7):667-71. PMID: 15158086
The reputation of garlic (Allium sativum) as an effective remedy for tumours extends back to the Egyptian Codex Ebers of 1550 b.c. Several garlic compounds including allicin and its corresponding sulfide inhibit the proliferation and induce apoptosis of several human non-leukaemia malignant cells including breast, bladder, colorectal, hepatic, prostate cancer, lymphoma and skin tumour cell lines. Ajoene (4,5,9-trithiadodeca-1,6,11-triene-9-oxide) is a garlic-derived compound produced most efficiently from pure allicin and has the advantage of a greater chemical stability than allicin. Several clinical trials and in vitro studies of ajoene have demonstrated its best-known anti-thrombosis, anti-microbial and cholesterol lowering activities. Recently, topic application of ajoene has produced significant clinical response in patients with skin basal cell carcinoma. Ajoene was shown to inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis of several human leukaemia CD34-negative cells including HL-60, U937, HEL and OCIM-1. Also, ajoene induces 30% apoptosis in myeloblasts from chronic myeloid leukaemia patient in blast crisis. More significantly, ajoene profoundly enhanced the apoptotic effect of the two chemotherapeutic drugs: cytarabine and fludarabine in human CD34-positive resistant myeloid leukaemia cells through enhancing their bcl-2 inhibitory and caspase-3 activation activities. The two key anti-leukaemia biological actions of ajoene were the inhibition of proliferation and the induction of apoptosis. Studies have shown the anti-proliferation activity of ajoene to be associated with a block in the G2/M phase of cell cycle in human myeloid leukaemia cells. The apoptosis inducing activity of ajoene is via the mitochondria-dependent caspase cascade through a significant reduction of the anti-apoptotic bcl-2 that results in release of cytochrome c and the activation of caspase-3. Since acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a heterogeneous malignant disease in which disease progression at the level of CD34-positive cells has a major impact on resistance to chemotherapy and relapse and the inability to undergo apoptosis is a crucial mechanism of multi-drug resistance in AML patients. The recent findings of the potent enhancing activity of ajoene on chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in CD34-positive resistant human myeloid leukaemia cells suggest a novel promising role for the treatment of refractory and/or relapsed AML patients as well as elderly AML patients. Further studies are warranted to evaluate similar enhancing effect for ajoene in blast cells from AML patients in primary cultures before its introduction in pilot clinical study.