Broccoli component limits breast cancer stem cells

May 3, 2010

A compound derived from broccoli could help prevent or treat breast cancer by targeting cancer stem cells -- the small number of cells that fuel a tumor's growth -- according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The study tested sulforaphane, a component of broccoli and broccoli sprouts, in both mice and cell cultures. Researchers found sulforaphane targeted and killed the cancer and prevented new tumors from growing.

"Sulforaphane has been studied previously for its effects on cancer, but this study shows that its benefit is in inhibiting the stem cells. This new insight suggests the potential of sulforaphane or broccoli extract to prevent or treat cancer by targeting the critical cancer stem cells," says study author Duxin Sun, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the U-M College of Pharmacy and a researcher with the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Results of the study appear in the May 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Current chemotherapies do not work against cancer stem cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads. Researchers believe that eliminating the cancer stem cells is key to controlling cancer.

In the current study, researchers took mice with breast cancer and injected varying concentrations of sulforaphane from the broccoli extract. Researchers then used several established methods to assess the number of cancer stem cells in the tumors. These measures showed a marked decrease in the cancer stem after treatment with sulforaphane, with little effect on the normal cells. Further, cancer cells from mice treated with sulforaphane were unable to generate new tumors. The researchers then tested sulforaphane on human breast cancer in the lab, finding similar decreases in the cancer stem cells.

"This research suggests a potential new treatment that could be combined with other compounds to target breast cancer stem cells. Developing treatments that effectively target the cancer stem cell population is essential for improving outcomes," says study author Max S. Wicha, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Oncology and director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The concentrations of sulforaphane used in the study were higher than what can be achieved by eating broccoli or broccoli sprouts. Prior research suggests the concentrations needed to impact cancer can be absorbed by the body from the extract, but side effects are not known. While the extract is available in capsule form as a supplement, concentrations are unregulated and will vary.

This work has not been tested in patients, and patients are not encouraged to add sulforaphane supplements to their diet at this time.

Researchers are currently developing a method to extract and preserve sulforaphane and will be developing a clinical trial to test sulforaphane as a prevention and treatment for breast cancer. No clinical trial is currently available.

More information: Clinical Cancer Research, Vol. 16, No. 9; May 1, 2010

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cancer immunotherapy may work better in patients with specific genes

December 15, 2017
Cancer cells arise when DNA is mutated, and these cells should be recognized as "foreign" by the immune system. However, cancer cells have found ways to evade detection by the immune system.

Scientists pinpoint gene to blame for poorer survival rate in early-onset breast cancer patients

December 15, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found that inherited variation in a particular gene may be to blame for the lower survival rate of patients diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer.

'Bet hedging' explains the efficacy of many combination cancer therapies

December 14, 2017
The efficacy of many FDA-approved cancer drug combinations is not due to synergistic interactions between drugs, but rather to a form of "bet hedging," according to a new study published by Harvard Medical School researchers ...

Liquid biopsy results differed substantially between two providers

December 14, 2017
Two Johns Hopkins prostate cancer researchers found significant disparities when they submitted identical patient samples to two different commercial liquid biopsy providers. Liquid biopsy is a new and noninvasive alternative ...

Testing the accuracy of FDA-approved and lab-developed cancer genetics tests

December 14, 2017
Cancer molecular testing can drive clinical decision making and help a clinician determine if a patient is a good candidate for a targeted therapeutic drug. Clinical tests for common cancer causing-mutations in the genes ...

Scientists unlock structure of mTOR, a key cancer cell signaling protein

December 14, 2017
Researchers in the Sloan Kettering Institute have solved the structure of an important signaling molecule in cancer cells. They used a new technology called cryo-EM to visualize the structure in three dimensions. The detailed ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fixer
not rated yet May 03, 2010
"Current chemotherapies do not work against cancer stem cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads."

Brave comment! I can picture the mobs of rampaging oncologists chasing Dr Sun right across town.

Seriously, there has long been speculation about Broccoli and this story has merit but I still don't see any improvement over Artemisinin.

http://www.physor...379.html
http://www.artbio...ome.html
singhavi
not rated yet May 04, 2010
Great news, but we still need to see this go from research stage to an actual human trail. Hope this study can also help us utilize other plants with properties to fight cancer.

The best way to fight cancer is by spreading cancer awareness. I have taken a small step from my side to do the same. My small initiative is :
www.cancery.com

pls do visit and leave your valuable suggestions, thoughts and comments to make it better.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.