March 11, 2011 -- Broccoli may help fight cancer by blocking a defective gene associated with tumor growth, according to new research.
Previous studies have heralded the potential cancer-fighting ability of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and watercress. But researchers say until now they didn't know the secret behind the vegetables' anticancer attributes.
In a new study, researchers found compounds in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables called isothiocyanates (ITCs) appear to target and block mutant p53 genes associated with cancer growth.
Gene p53 is known as a tumor suppressor gene and appears to play a critical role in keeping cells healthy and protecting them from cancer. When this gene is damaged or mutated, it stops offering this protection. Researchers say these mutations are found in about half of all human cancers.
In a report published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researcher Xiantao Wang of Georgetown University and colleagues analyzed the effects of ITCs on gene p53 in a variety of human cancer cells, including lung, breast, and colon cancer, in the lab.
The results showed that ITCs were capable of removing the defective p53 gene while leaving healthy versions of the gene alone.
Researchers say if further studies confirm these findings, it could lead to new therapies for preventing and treating cancer.