The Broccoli Cure? Vegetable compound found to block existing breast cancer

A well known anti-cancer agent in certain vegetables has just had its reputation enhanced. The compound, found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, has been found to be effective in disrupting late stages of cell growth in breast cancer. Keith Singletary of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says the finding involving sulforaphane (SUL), could ultimately be used to enhance the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.

“This is the first report to show how the naturally occurring plant chemical sulforaphane can block late stages of the cancer process by disrupting components of the cell called microtubules,” said Singletary. “We were surprised and pleased to find that SUL could block the growth of breast cells that were already cancerous.”

SUL is abundant in such vegetables as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale. Chewing causes the cell walls of these vegetables to break, and SUL is released into the body.

Researchers exposed cultures of malignant human breast cancer cells to SUL. Within hours, SUL blocked cell division and disrupted microtubules, essential for the separation of duplicated chromosomes during cell division.

“These findings are significant since SUL’s actions appear similar to a group of anticancer drugs currently in use, such as Taxol,” Singletary said. “The findings may be helpful in the development of new breast cancer prevention and treatment strategies.”

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Aug 31, 2004