Background: Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML) is a heterogeneous disease that is not only hard to diagnose and classify, but is also highly resistant to treatment. Available forms of therapy for this disease have not shown significant effects and patients rapidly develop resistance early on in therapy. These factors lead to the very poor prognosis observed with CMML patients, with median survival duration between 12 and 24 months after diagnosis. This study is therefore centered around evaluating the selective efficacy of a natural extract from dandelion roots, in inducing programmed cell death in aggressive and resistant CMML cell lines.
Methodology/principal findings: To confirm the induction of programmed cell death in three human CMML cell lines, nuclear condensation and externalization of the phosphatidylserine, two main characteristics of apoptosis, were detected using Hoechst staining and annexin-V binding assay. The induction of another mode of cell death, autophagy, was determined using a monodansylcadaverine (MDC) stain, to detect the formation of autophagy vacuoles. The results from this study indicate that Dandelion Root Extract (DRE) is able to efficiently and selectively induce apoptosis and autophagy in these cell lines in a dose and time dependent manner, with no significant toxicity on non-cancerous peripheral blood mononuclear cells. More importantly, we observed early activation of initiator caspase-8, which led to mitochondrial destabilization and the induction of autophagy, suggesting that DRE acts through the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis. The inability of DRE to induce apoptosis in dominant-negative FADD cells, confirms the mechanism of action of DRE in in vitro models of CMML.
Conclusion: The results from this study indicate that natural products, in particular Dandelion Root Extract, have great potential, as non-toxic and effective alternatives to conventional modes of chemotherapy available today.