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Anti-cancer compound in vegetables found to block late-stage breast-cancer cell growth

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A well-known anti-cancer agent in certain vegetables has just had its reputation enhanced. The compound, in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, has been found to be effective in disrupting late stages of cell growth in breast cancer.

Keith Singletary and doctoral student Steven Jackson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report their finding involving sulforaphane (SUL), which they say could ultimately be used to enhance the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

"This is the first report to show how the naturally occurring plant chemical sulforaphane can block late stages of the cancer process by disrupting components of the cell called microtubules," said Singletary, a professor in the department of food science and human nutrition. "We were surprised and pleased to find that SUL could block the growth of breast cells that were already cancerous."

SUL is abundant in such vegetables as broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale. Chewing causes the cell walls of these vegetables to break, and SUL is released into the body.

Singletary, a researcher in phytochemicals and cancer chemoprevention, and Jackson exposed cultures of malignant human breast cancer cells to SUL. Within hours, SUL blocked cell division and disrupted microtubules, which are long, slender cylinders made up of tubulin (protein), that are essential for the separation of duplicated chromosomes during cell division.

"It is not yet clear whether the doses required to produce inhibition of tubulin polymerization are higher than those achievable via dietary intakes," wrote Jackson and Singletary. "However, the results show that tubulin disruption may be an important explanation for SUL's antiproliferative action."

"These findings are significant since SUL's actions appear similar to a group of anticancer drugs currently in use, such as Taxol," Singleta
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Contact: Molly McElroy or Jim Barlow
mmcelroy@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
31-Aug-2004


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