Scientists are reporting the discovery of a potential biochemical basis for the cancer-fighting ability of broccoli and its other vegetable cousins.
They found, for the first time, certain substances found in the vegetables appear to target and block a defective gene associated with cancer.
The study could lead to new strategies for preventing and treating cancer and appears in ACS’ Journal of Medical Chemistry.
The researchers, led by Fung-Lung Chung and colleagues, showed in previous studies that substances called isothiocyanates (ITCs) – found in broccoli, cauliflower, watercress and other cruciferous vegetables – appear to stop the growth of cancer.
What the scientists did not know was how these substances work. Discovering how these worked this is vital to developing improved strategies for fighting cancer in humans.
The tumour suppressor gene, known as P53, appears to help keep cells healthy and prevent them from starting the abnormal growth – a hallmark of cancer.
When mutated p53 does not offer this protection and these mutations occur in half of all human cancer. ITCs might work by targeting this gene, the report concludes.
The scientists studied the effects ITCs on variety of cancer cells, including lung, breast and colon cancer. They found ITCs are capable of removing the defective p53 protein but leaving the normal one alone.