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Pancratistatin induces apoptosis in clinical leukemia samples with minimal effect on non-cancerous peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Carly Griffin1, Caroline Hamm2, James McNulty3 and Siyaram Pandey1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON Canada

2 Windsor Regional Cancer Center, Windsor, ON Canada

3 Department of Chemistry, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada

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Cancer Cell International 2010, 10:6  doi:10.1186/1475-2867-10-6

Published: 6 March 2010



Pancratistatin, a natural compound extracted from Hymenocallis littoralis, can selectively induce apoptosis in several cancer cell lines. In this ex vivo study, we evaluated the effect of pancratistatin on peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from 15 leukemia patients prior to clinical intervention of newly diagnosed patients, as well as others of different ages in relapse and at various disease progression states.


Mononuclear cells from healthy volunteers and leukemia patients were exposed to 1 μM pancratistatin for up to 48 h. Irrespective of leukemia type, pancratistatin induced apoptosis in the leukemic samples, with minimal effects on non-cancerous peripheral blood mononuclear control cells.


Our results show that pancratistatin is an effective and selective anti-cancer agent with potential for advancement to clinical trials.