Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive hematological malignancy that is one of the more common pediatric malignancies in addition to occurring with high incidence in the aging population. Unfortunately, these patient groups are quite sensitive to toxicity from chemotherapy. Northern Labrador tea, or Rhododendron tomentosum Harmaja (a.k.a. Ledum palustre subsp. decumbens) or “tundra tea,” is a noteworthy medicinal plant used by indigenous peoples in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland to treat a diversity of ailments. However, laboratory investigations of Northern Labrador tea, and other Labrador tea family members, as botanical sources for anticancer compounds have been limited. Utilizing an AML cell line in both in vitro and in vivo studies, as well as in vitro studies using primary human AML patient samples, this study demonstrated for the first time that Northern Labrador tea extracts can exert anti-AML activity and that this may be attributed to ursolic acid as a constituent component. Therefore, this medicinal herb holds the potential to serve as a source for further drug discovery efforts to isolate novel anti-AML compounds.
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