You certainly know that eating vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage can help prevent breast cancer. Until now, the protection mechanism offered by these cruciferous vegetables was unknown. But researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have found an explanation. Here is a quote from the lead scientist: 'These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.' Listen to her, run to your grocery store and change the menu of your Christmas meals! ...
You can see on the left Olga Azarenko, UCSB graduate student and cancer researcher. She is the lead author of this research project. Here is a link to a larger version of this photo.
Azarenko worked under the supervision of Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, and Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.
Azarenko discovered that one isothiocyanate compound named sulforaphane, or SFN, was a very active anti-cancer chemical. "'It has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.' Azarenko made the surprising discovery that SFN inhibits the proliferation of human tumor cells by a mechanism similar to the way that the anticancer drugs taxol and vincristine inhibit cell division during mitosis. Mitosis is the process in which the duplicated DNA in the form of chromosomes is accurately distributed to the two daughter cells when a cell divides."
Of course, eating cabbage or broccoli every day is not a tasty solution -- at least for me. But according to Wilson, consuming veggies "could be used as an addition to taxol and other similar drugs to increase effective killing of tumor cells without increased toxicity."
This research work has been published in the December 2008 issue of the scientific journal Carcinogenesis under the title "Suppression of microtubule dynamic instability and turnover in MCF7 breast cancer cells by sulforaphane" (Volume 29, Number 12, December 2008).
Here is the beginning of the abstract. "Sulforaphane (SFN), a prominent isothiocyanate present in cruciferous vegetables, is believed to be responsible along with other isothiocyanates for the cancer preventive activity of such vegetables. SFN arrests mitosis, possibly by affecting spindle microtubule function. A critical property of microtubules is their rapid and time-sensitive growth and shortening dynamics (dynamic instability), and suppression of dynamics by antimitotic anticancer drugs (e.g. taxanes and the vinca alkaloids) is central to the anticancer mechanisms of such drugs."
Sources: University of California at Santa Barbara news release, December 23, 2008; and various websites
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