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Broccoli Phytochemical Might Inhibit Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Posted Apr 22 2010 7:57am
Broccoli is rich in a number of phytochemicals including sulforaphane and indoles that have been implicated as important cancer fighting compounds.  The potential benefits of broccoli and the phytochemicals found in broccoli have been studied in a number of cancers, including breast cancer. 

A new breast cancer study ( Abstract 4271 ) presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research examined the effect of the broccoli compound sulforaphane on breast cancer stem cells, cells reported to be important in the initiation and recurrence of breast cancer.  For this study, the investigators tested the impact of sulforaphane on cancer stem cells in culture and on cancer stem cells implanted into mice.  The breast cancer researchers reported that
  • Treatment of a breast cancer cell line with sulforaphane reduced the percentage of breast cancer stem cells by about 65-80%.
  • Sulforaphane treatment reduced the size and number of breast tumors formed in culture by 50-75%.
  • Injection of sulforaphane into mice killed breast cancer stem cells implanted into mice, thereby preventing tumor re-growth.
  • Analysis of the mechanism by which sulforaphane exerted its effects showed that sulforaphane suppressed a self-renewal pathway.
These are exciting results that show the possible ways that broccoli might reduce breast cancer risk.  By suppressing the function of breast cancer stem cells, the cancer fighting compoud in broccoli might help reduce the risk of cancer developing or recurring.  While this study was done in cell culture and in mice, the results suggest potential benefits for people.  However, the amount of sulforaphane used in the mouse study was pretty high (50 mg/kg of body weight).  A 150-lb person would have to consume about 3.5 grams of sulforaphane to reach an equivalent dose and that would take a LOT of broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables. 

Future studies in people will need to be done to determine if these results translate to people.  However, that is no reason to not eat broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables.  Broccoli is an extremely nutrient-rich food that can be used in many dishes.  In fact, one cup of broccoli provides about 200% of our daily requirements of vitamin C and vitamin K.  It is also very rich in vitamin D, folate, and dietary fiber.

The potential anti-cancer properties of broccoli and its nutrient-rich profile makes broccoli one of my favorite breast cancer fighting foods.  To learn about my other favorite breast cancer fighting foods, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at .
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