Delving Deeper into Broccoli
This week I’ve been discussing some of the potential benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower. Some people don’t like these vegetables, (also called brassica vegetables) because they possess a specific configuration of taste buds that renders the flavor of these plants bitter on the tongue. Those of us with no such excuse would do well to embrace the brassicas. They’re among the most potent cancer-fighting plants around.
Much research has focused on one of the four major anti-cancer compounds found in these plants: sulforaphane. In fact, some new research has uncovered the specific mechanism by which sulforaphane thwarts cancer, and it’s exciting stuff. It shows, in effect, that this particular phytonutrient may be useful not only for cancer prevention, but also for cancer therapy after disease is already established.
Investigators note that this would require extracting the compound and supplying it in pill form, in order to achieve sufficiently high amounts in the bloodstream. But they also note that one raw source of sulforaphane—broccoli sprouts—already contains especially high concentrations of this plant chemical. People hoping to boost their own cancer-prevention efforts should consider adding broccoli sprouts to their arsenal of functional foods.
Meanwhile, researchers are excited about the potential for sulforaphane as an adjunct to traditional chemotherapy for metastasized cancer. Adjuncts are compounds that are added to standard chemotherapy. They are believed to enhance chemotherapy drugs’ effectiveness, or reduce their toxicity to healthy cells.
“There's significant evidence of the value of cruciferous vegetables in cancer prevention,” said Emily Ho, lead author of the study, which was conducted at Oregon State University. “However, this study is one of the first times we've shown how sulforaphane can affect…metastasized prostate cancer cells…It begins a process that can help to re-express tumor suppressors, leading to the selective death of cancer cells and slowing disease progression.”
Emily Ho et al. SUV39H1/H3K9me3 attenuates sulforaphane-induced apoptotic signaling in PC3 prostate cancer cells. Oncogenesis, December 2014 DOI: 10.1038/oncsis.2014.47