Thursday, 24 May 2012

Compound in Broccoli Found to Have Cancer Fighting Properties

For those of you who had to be harassed by your mother to eat your vegies when you were younger, you now have a very good reason to thank her for her persistence. It was found in May 2007 that vegies from the super food group cruciferous, including broccoli and brussel sprouts, contain sulforaphane, a compound that has the ability to prevent cancer. Recent research though, conducted by the Origin State University, has found yet another benefit of this compound.[1]

Figure 1
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The cause of cancer is driven by an overproduction or mutation of chromosomes in genes.[2] External factors such as our diet greatly impact a genes ability to prevent this from happening and influences their expressions.[1] Initial studies had found that histone deacetylase (HDAC) - an enzyme that hinders the correct functioning of gene expression – is inhibited by sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables.[1] More recent studies from Origin State University though, has broadened our understanding of sulforaphane and found a second anti cancer property.

It was found that a second process, DNA methylation, utilizes sulforaphane in a similar way to HDAC.[3] Under normal circumstances, DNA methylation helps regulate which genes are expressed within the cells, and encourages the normal process of silencing.[4] In cancerous tissue though, the process is disrupted causing the cell regulator gene, cyclin D2, to be silenced.[4] The study conducted was the examining of this gene in prostate cancer and how sulforaphane had an affect it’s expression in the cancer cells.[1] Results showed that sulforaphane had a controlling influence on cyclin D2’s expression, specifically, it displayed its ability to turn on the methylation induced silenced genes, hereby preventing cancer from spreading.[5] Although the study was predominantly on prostate cancer, researches say “the same processes are relevant to many other cancers as well, including colon and breast cancer”.[1]

Cancers are usually a result of many things gone wrong rather then one individual influence. DNA methylation and HDAC inhibition take advantage of their sulforaphane connection and work in conjunction with each other.[1] Both of these processes occur naturally within our cells and when properly balanced keep our gene cycle and cell division regular, but when imbalanced impose disorderly functions and production of cancer.[1] It is these situations where the knowledge and understanding of sulforaphane is important, enabling proper functioning of gene processes and ensuring the likelihood of cancer production is minimal. With such significant findings underway, the search for a prevention and cure for cancer is well in progress.


[1] Origin State University, 2012, Another Mechanism Discovered By Which Sulforaphane Prevents Cancer, viewed 16/3/12, (Original article)

[2] Campbell, NA 1946, Biology, 8th edition, Pierson Education, Australia

[3] Philip, J 2012, Broccoli delivers a one-two punch to prevent cancer development and progression, viewed 17/3/12,

[4] 2012, How Broccoli Beats Cancer, viewed 17/3/12,

[5] Origin State University 2011, Promoter de-methylation of cyclin D2 by sulforaphane in prostate cancer cells, viewed 17/3/12,

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