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Cancer-fighting agents in broccoli target diseased cells
Scientists say they’ve found cancer-fighting agents in broccoli and cauliflower that selectively target and kill diseased cells while leaving normal cells healthy.
Researchers from Oregon State University were able to demonstrate that a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables, sulforaphane, is able to selectively target cancer cells in prostate patients and leave healthy cells alone, unlike traditional chemotherapies.
Though sulforaphane has been shown to fight cancer in other studies, lead author Emily Ho says their study was able to confirm that the agent acts as an inhibitor of histone deacetylase, or HDAC, a family of enzymes that play a role in whether certain genes – like tumor suppressor genes – are expressed or not.
HDAC inhibitors help turn on these silenced genes and restore normal cellular function.
Sulforaphane is found at high levels in broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables.
The findings were published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research and released by Oregon State University.
Researchers are currently performing clinical trials in the use of sulforaphane in prostate and breast cancer.
“Just because a phytochemical or nutrient is found in food doesn’t always mean it’s safe, and a lot can also depend on the form or levels consumed,” Ho said in a statement. “But this does appear to be a phytochemical that can selectively kill cancer cells, and that’s always what you look for in cancer therapies.”
Another study out of the University of Michigan last year also found that sulforaphane targeted and killed cancer stem cells in animals and prevented new tumors from growing. The study focused on breast cancer stem cells and was published in the Clinical Cancer Research.
To launch a full-scale assault against prostate cancer, meanwhile, a University of Illinois study from 2007 showed that broccoli and tomatoes work in a tag-team effort: when eaten together, their cancer-fighting abilities are more effective than when eaten separately.
The study recommended that men should consume 1.4 cups (139 g) of raw broccoli, 2.5 cups (248 g) of fresh tomatoes or one cup of tomato sauce (237 ml).
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