Here we go again. First it was mint leaves, now it’s olive leaves. Yesterday I was looking up something entirely different when I came across oleanolic acid, which is a triterpenoid (how’s that for a mouthful?) compound extracted from plant sources and food (even seedless raisins, I read). But it is also extracted from olive leaves (olea = olive). Olive leaves? Yes, I read that correctly: the leaves of Olea europaea, the common olive tree. I couldn’t stop reading, since I live in a country, indeed a region, famous for its delicious extra virgin olive oil (rightly so). Plus, my cousin is an extra virgin olive oil taster (yes, just like a sommelier, except she tastes and judges olive oil), and our wonderful extra virgin olive oil is given to us by a friend who owns an olive grove here in Tuscany.
So, just for the heck of it, I googled oleanolic acid and myeloma and, wouldn’t you know it?, there it was: a study on an olive leaf extract and MM cells, co-authored by Dr. Kenneth Anderson and published in "Molecular Cancer Therapeutics" in 2004. The full study can be read at: http://tinyurl.com/2okvod It is quite technical, but the conclusion is clear: a synthetic version of oleanolic acid, known as CDDO-Im, induced apoptosis in myeloma cells.
I called my husband, who laughed boy, those MM cells get killed by practically anything, don’t they? (Don’t we wish?!!!) But it (almost) seems to be true: any plant extract that I have looked up so far, and that has been tested in vitro against MM cells, appears to have an apoptotic effect on these malignant cells. Hmmm. Anyway, back to us and the oleanolic acid-MM study. In the Introduction, we can read that Chemoresistant MM cells have also been reported to inactivate anticancer drugs more efficiently than chemosensitive MM cells […]. In this regard, increases in the expression of glutathione (GSH) or the activity of GSH-related enzymes in MM cells has been associated with resistance to anticancer drugs […]. Novel treatment approaches that overcome such chemorefractory mechanisms may therefore be effective in the treatment of MM. CCDO-Im reduces the levels of GSH, which leads to the apoptosis of MM cells. The study continues: we analyzed the effects of the CDDO C-28 imidazolide ester (CDDO-Im) on MM cells. CDDO-Im is a potent inducer of apoptosis in MM cell lines and primary MM cells. Potent inducer of apoptosis in MM cells? What??? Hold on a sec, I’ll be right back. I am just going to pop over to ask my neighbour for some olive leaves from his gorgeous olive tree (see photo)! I could juice them! (Just kidding or am I? 😉 )
Other effects of oleanolic acid. It has anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective and anti-hyperlipidemic properties, see this 1995 study: http://tinyurl.com/2aa7vm It has anti-HIV activity, according to this 1999 study: http://tinyurl.com/ypahk9, and wound-healing potential (http://tinyurl.com/ytczrr). A 1999 study (http://tinyurl.com/2rhdpu) tells us that it suppresses the abilities of various inflammatory cytokines, such as IFN-, interleukin-1, and tumor necrosis factor-, to induce de novo formation of the enzymes inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNos) and inducible cyclooxygenase (COX-2) in mouse peritoneal macrophages, rat brain microglia, and human colon fibroblasts. CDDO will also protect rat brain hippocampal neurons from cell death induced by beta-amyloid. A 2003 study suggests that it be used in breast cancer therapy: http://tinyurl.com/338z7b. It also "can provide a cheap and accessible source of additive to conventional treatment of hypertension, complicated by stenocardia and cardiac failure" (http://tinyurl.com/yo2pvv). There seems to be no end to its potential. Oh, it also fights the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease, so make sure you include oleanolic acid-containing raisins in your diet. Oleanolic acid can also be found in medicinal herbs such as ligustrum, forsythia, and swertia, which are used in China to treat hepatitis. I will stop here, but there would be much more.
Last but not least, according to the IMF website (http://tinyurl.com/3dlsmr), Johns-Hopkins and Dartmouth are testing oleanolic acid, which is now in the preclinical stage. In fact, this excellent bit of news is hot off the press, see the May 22 issue of the Myeloma Minute: http://tinyurl.com/22faba!