Leukemia is one of the 10 most common cancers in Thailand, occurring in all ages and genders. The cause of it, however, remains unclear. CMU recognizes the importance of researching resources available or produced domestically to enhance the capacity of cancer treatment in Thailand. An interdisciplinary research team from the Faculty of Science, Pharmacy and the Research Institute for Health Sciences (RIHES), studied the anti-leukemia effects of Elsholtzia stachyodes or Phak Haan, a lesser-known plant that has been used for consumption and therapeutic purposes by ethnic groups such as Kayin and Akha. There is also an interest in discovering novel approaches to cancer cell elimination using antibodies that are produced domestically by Thai researchers, with the support of Professor Dr Watchara Kasinrerk from the CMU Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences.
The researchers collected plants from the Elsholtzia genus and then obtained crude extracts and fractions. They were then tested for anti-leukemic effects against K562, U937 and Raji leukemia, as well as the cytotoxicity against peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Extracts that showed good anti-leukemic effects were selected for chromatographic analysis of the best active ingredients using HPLC and LC-MS.
The results showed that fractions from Elsholtzia Stachyodes have the highest anti-leukemic effects with low cytotoxicity and chromatographic analysis showed that luteolins and apigenins are the key components exerting anti-cancer effects through various mechanisms. Their mechanism of action is to induce ER stress, cell cycle arrest and autophagy in cancer cells, leading to apoptosis.
This research is an extension of the results by a team of students and staff from the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory at the CMU Department of Biology, led by Assistant Professor Dr Pathrapol Lithanatudom, Mr Mattapong Kulaphisit and Mr Kampanat Phromlok, in collaboration with Associate Professor Dr Chalermpong Saenjum from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Faculty of Pharmacy; Dr Jiraprapa Wipasa from RIHES Research Centre for Molecular and Cell Biology, Assistant Professor Dr Angkhana Inta from the Department of Biology, and Assistant Professor Dr Pitchaya Mungkornasawakul from the Department of Chemistry at the Faculty of Science. The pursuit of new anti-cancer substances based on local wisdom and the application of domestically-produced antibodies will not only help generate incomes for local people, but it will also lead to the development of cancer drugs that can be used to treat cancers, or in conjunction with modern medicine, thus increasing the rate of successful treatment.