Aug 19, 2012 by NATASHA LONGO
Broccoli-Based Medicine Against Cancer: Only Nature Can Do The Job
Nature's army of organiosulfur compounds which exhibits anticancer, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial properties, are being harnessed by scientists to give women a fighting chance against breast cancer, something prescription medication has failed to do for so many victims of the disease.
Previous studies have suggested that a compound released after eating broccoli can boost protective enzymes in breast tissue. Women with breast cancer are now being given a broccoli-based medicine to suppress their tumours.
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 believe that eliminating the cancer stem cells is key to controlling cancer and in both mice and cell cultures, sulforaphane targeted and killed the cancer stem cells and prevented new tumours from growing.
"Broccoli, prepared correctly, is an extremely potent cancer-fighting agent -- three to five servings a week are enough to have an effect. To get broccoli's benefits, though, the enzyme myrosinase has to be present; if it's not there, sulforaphane, broccoli's cancer-preventive and anti-inflammatory component, doesn't form," said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutrition.
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.’
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.
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.
Broccoli has also been found to fight skin cancer, damaging effects caused by diabetes on heart blood vessels, gastritis, ulcers, allergies and asthma.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.