Broccoli (Sprouts or Extract ) Can Halt the Growth of Breast Cancer Cells

Well many may not like broccoli, it sure appears to be helpful for treating and preventing breast and prostate cancer and have found that one of the chemicals in broccoli may also help treat the disease. The chemical indole-3-carbinol, a component of broccoli and other members of the Brassica genus, halts the growth of breast cancer cells and likely prostate cancer. Other vegetables in the Brassica genus inlcude brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, chard and turnips and they are also likely to be helpful.

Indole-3-carbinol works by halting the cell cycle in breast cancer cells without actually killing the cells. The cell cycle is a rigidly prescribed series of steps a cell must go through before it can divide in two, involving the duplication of the cell's contents and a final split.

If you can alter specific components of the cell cycle, you can stop the growth of cancer cells without killing normal cells. Indole-3-carbinol interferes with the cell cycle in a way that hints at a totally new signaling pathway in the cell. The chemical seems to be working by a very unusual mechanism. It turns off a gene for an enzyme important in the cell's growth cycle. The compound also works independently of the hormone estrogen, which makes it a good candidate for use in combination therapy with drugs that interfere with estrogen, such as the potent breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

What's exciting about this is that indole-3-carbinol has low toxicity but is a very effective agent against breast cancer -- it's one of the most effective agents at blocking tumorigenesis in rats. Given in the diet, indole-3-carbinol can block 95 percent of all breast cancers in rats.

It appears that indole-3-carbinol does not act on estrogen at all, but rather works through a different mechanism to halt the cell cycle. The chemicals produced when indole-3-carbinol reacts with stomach acid are the ones responsible for the anti-estrogen and certain toxic effects of the broccoli compounds. Indole-3-carbinol specifically causes a sudden drop in the production of the enzyme CDK6, or cyclin-dependent kinase 6. CDK6 is one of several protein complexes targeted by hormones that regulate the progression of the cell cycle, and was identified only three years ago.

From every way that I look at it indole 3 carbinol sure seems vastly superior to the drug Tamoxifin to treat breast cancer. It is likley also to be very beneficial in the treatment of prostate cancer since the two diseases have very similar contributing factors. However does that mean you should absolutely rush out and purchase supplements of indole 3 carbinol?

Absolutely not!!!

My strong recommendation would be to get the entire family of beneficial nutrients. The best way to do this would not be to eat broccoli but to consume broccoli sprouts which are hundreds of times more potent than regular broccoli. Six years ago I wrote a detailed description of how to do that. It is a bit of a hassle to sprout them yourself but it is clearly worth the benefit and a serious fraction of the cost of purchasing the broccoli or the indole 3 carbinol as a supplement.

Nutrition and Cancer 2004;48(1):84-94

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