Concentrated Cruciferous Compound Cuts Cancer

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells die when incubated with sulforaphane

(RxWiki News) A common blood cancer in children is called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Most children are cured of the cancer. About one in five kids, though, don’t respond to treatment. A natural alternative may help these youngsters.

A compound found in broccoli and similar vegetables reduced the number of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells in lab experiments. The compound is called sulforaphane. It’s found in so-called cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes, etc.

"Eat your broccoli!"

H. Daniel Lacorazza, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, led the study that uncovered this information.

An association between cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk has already been established in earlier studies. People who eat lots of these vegetables tend to have lower risks of some solid tumor cancers, including those of the lung, prostate and colon.

"There have not been definitive studies showing how this compound interacts with blood cancers," Lacorazza said in a statement.

In a lab study, ALL cells derived from humans and lymphoblasts (immature immune cells) from pediatric patients were incubated with a concentrated form of sulforaphane. Scientists found that the cancer cells died and the healthy cells were unharmed. Animal studies demonstrated the same results.

Dr. Lacorazza says the compound interacts with certain proteins. This research, which is preliminary and needs additional study, suggests this compound could be used along with other therapies to treat ALL.

Once the proteins the substance interacts with are precisely identified, new targets for new drugs may known.

"Sulforaphane is a natural product. However, what we used in this study is a concentrated purified form," Dr. Lacorazza. "So while eating cruciferous vegetables is good for you, it will not have the same effect as what we saw in the lab."

This research was published in the journal PLOS ONE. Funding for this study came from The Gabrielle Angel Foundation for Cancer Research and the Alkek Award for Pilot Projects on Experimental Therapeutic at BCM.

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2012