Broccoli: The new weapon against breast cancer as researchers discover it could suppress tumours
21:00 GMT, 18 August 2012
Women with breast cancer are being given a broccoli-based medicine to see if it suppresses their tumours.
Previous studies have suggested that a compound released after eating broccoli can boost protective enzymes in breast tissue.
Now scientists have harnessed this molecule, sulforaphane, and are giving it to patients newly diagnosed with the disease.
Sulforaphane is produced by the body when we eat glucoraphanin, a compound found in broccoli
Eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, has long been associated with a reduced risk of conditions from arthritis to cancer, but the mechanism has remained unclear.
Researchers at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) believe that sulforaphane can boost the body’s own anti-cancer weapons.
‘Sulforaphane is very important,’ says Dr Maria Traka, of the Norwich-based IFR. ‘The evidence suggests that it helps maintain a healthy balance of antioxidants in the body to counter the effects of dietary, environmental, or other carcinogens.
‘To get the benefits, you would need to eat three or four portions of broccoli a week. Some may find that difficult but, having seen the evidence, my family now eat it three or four times a week.’
Researchers are looking at whether broccoli extract taken three times a day for up to two months slows the growth of tumour cells
Sulforaphane is produced by the body when we eat glucoraphanin, a compound found in broccoli.
It is thought sulforaphane turns on genes that boost antioxidant levels and blocks a family of enzymes called HDAC that prevents the body from suppressing tumours.
It may even encourage the body to make other enzymes that excrete carcinogens.
Research also shows it may stop the development of cancer stem-cells that are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The two new trials using broccoli-based medicines are both based in America.
At Johns Hopkins University and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, women with breast cancer are being given sulforaphane daily for two weeks to see if it slows the growth of tumours and increases levels of protective enzymes in breast tissue.
Meanwhile, at the Knight Cancer Institute in Oregon, researchers are looking at whether broccoli extract taken three times a day for up to two months slows the growth of tumour cells.