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Can Sulforaphane Help Cancer?

Sulforaphane is a constituent of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli cauliflower, cabbage and kale.  The isothiocyanate sulforaphane is abundant in broccoli sprouts in the form of  its glucosinolate  precursor. However the amount present varies widely among varieties of broccoli. A group of researchers at the “Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine” have shown that three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads. Sulforaphane has been shown in vitro studies to have anticancer activities against breast, prostate, and urinary cancers. In preclinical studies sulforaphane has exhibited antineoplastic activities in multiple tumor models.

Sulforaphane Cancer Prevention and Cure

A preventive property of brassicas against cancer may be plausible due to their relatively high content  of glucosinolates. The cohort studies demonstrated inverse associations between the consumption of  brassicas and risk of stomach cancer, lung cancer, all cancers taken together. Of the case-control studies 64% demonstrated an inverse association between consumption of one or more brassica vegetables and risk of cancer at various sites. This association appears to be most consistent forstomach, lung, rectal and colon cancer, and least consistent for prostate, endometrium and ovarian cancer. Sulforaphane, one of naturally occurring isothiocyanates, has huge cancer chemopreventive potential. It modulates cell death, cell cycle, angiogenesis, susceptibility to carcinogens, invasion and metastasis and possesses antioxidant effects. In-vitro and animals-based studies have confirmed the anti-cancer properties and have showed  that the phytochemical decreases the frequency, size, and number of tumors.

Numerous in vitro studies in human colon, pancreatic, leukemia, lung, and skin cancer cell lines have showed sulforaphane’s inhibitory properties on cell cycle arrest, and research in  human bladder and prostate cell lines has shown it increases apoptosis. Sulforaphane provided important preservation against oxidative damage to prostate cells according to a study on prostate cancer reported in the 2009 Prostate. A study in the journal “Clinical Cancer Research” demonstrated that sulforaphane is able to kill breast cancer stem cells in mice and in laboratory cultures, and furthermore prevented new tumor cells from growing. In mice with experimentally induced prostate cancer, 6 µmol sulforaphane by oral gavage 3 times weekly from age 6 weeks onward decreased pulmonary metastasis incidence by 50 % and multiplicity by 63%.  The scientists believe a chemical called sulforaphane works with cells which lack an anti-tumour gene to fight prostate cancer. The gene, called PTEN, can allow the spread of prostate cancer if it becomes defective. In a study sulforaphane helped the gene to survive and help to fight the cancer. “PTEN is a tumour suppressor gene, the deletion or inactivation of which can initiate prostate carcinogenesis, and enhance the probability of cancer progression. We’ve shown here that sulforaphane has different effects depending on whether the PTEN gene is present”. Says Professor Richard Mithen.

A study from “Baylor College of Medicine” scientists shows a compound (sulforaphane) found in cruciferous veggies, is able to kill leukemia cells in the lab. The results reported in the journal “PLoS ONE“, demonstrated that incubating the compound, called sulforaphane, with cells of acute lymphoblastic leukemia caused the cancer cells to die.  Sulforaphane could help avoid or treat breast cancer by targeting cancer stem cells according to a study from scientists at the “University of  Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center“. In the current study, investigators took mice with breast cancer and injected varying concentrations of sulforaphane. Investigators then used different established methods to assess the number of cancer stem cells in the tumors. These measures demonstrated a marked reduction in the cancer stem cell population after cure with sulforaphane, with little effect on the normal cells. Also, cancer cells from mice treated with sulforaphane were unable to generate new tumors. “This research suggests a potential new treatment that could be combined with other compounds to target breast cancer stem cells; says Max S. Wicha, M.D director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Scientists at the” Institute of  Food Research” believe that sulforaphane can boost the body’s own anti-cancer weapons.’ Sulforaphane is very important,‘ says Dr Maria Traka.‘The findings suggests that it helps maintain a healthy balance of antioxidants in the body to counter the effects of dietary, environmental, or other carcinogens. It is thought sulforaphane turns on genes that boost antioxidant levels and blocks a family of enzymes called HDAC that avoids the body from suppressing tumours. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) inhibitors, such as sulforaphane, can help restore proper balance and prevent the development of cancer. In a pilot study involving three healthy participants, a single daily dose of 68 g BroccoSprouts® (about 105 mg sulforaphane) significantly inhibited HDAC activity in  peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures 3 and 6 hours following consumption, suggesting sulforaphane may induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in humans.


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