Broccoli May Be Weapon Against Breast Cancer
Can a diet that includes plenty of broccoli help keep cancer at bay? Probably not, but researchers at the University of Michigan say something in the vegetable, ingested in large doses, just might be beneficial.
Researchers at the university’s Comprehensive Cancer Center say a compound derived from broccoli could actually help prevent or treat breast cancer by targeting cancer stem cells -- the small number of cells that fuel a tumor's growth.
The study tested sulforaphane, a component of broccoli and broccoli sprouts, in both mice and cell cultures. Researchers found sulforaphane targeted and killed the cancer stem cells and prevented new tumors from growing.
Results of the study appear in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
Current chemotherapies do not work against cancer stem cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads. Researchers believe that eliminating cancer stem cells is key to controlling cancer.
In the current study, researchers took mice with breast cancer and injected varying concentrations of sulforaphane from the broccoli extract. Researchers then used several established methods to assess the number of cancer stem cells in the tumors.
These measures showed a marked decrease in the cancer stem cell population after treatment with sulforaphane, with little effect on the normal cells. Further, cancer cells from mice treated with sulforaphane were unable to generate new tumors. The researchers then tested sulforaphane on human breast cancer cell cultures in the lab, finding similar decreases in the cancer stem cells.
"This research suggests a potential new treatment that could be combined with other compounds to target breast cancer stem cells. Developing treatments that effectively target the cancer stem cell population is essential for improving outcomes," said study author Dr. Max S. Wicha, Distinguished Professor of Oncology and director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The concentrations of sulforaphane used in the study were higher than what can be achieved by eating broccoli or broccoli sprouts. Prior research suggests the concentrations needed to impact cancer can be absorbed by the body from the broccoli extract, but side effects are not known.
While the extract is available in capsule form as a supplement, concentrations are unregulated and will vary, the researchers say.
This work has not been tested in patients, and patients are not encouraged to add sulforaphane supplements to their diet at this time.
Researchers are currently developing a method to extract and preserve sulforaphane and will be developing a clinical trial to test sulforaphane as a prevention and treatment for breast cancer. No clinical trial is currently available.
(Article courtesy of ConsumerAffairs.com)
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