Phytonutrients in broccoli and soy found to prevent spread of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and even melanoma

February 20, 2008

Naturally occurring chemicals found in broccoli and soy may prevent the spread of breast cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers at UCLA and presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"We think these compounds might slow or prevent the metastasis of breast and ovarian cancer, which would greatly increase the effectiveness of current treatments," said Erin Hsu, a graduate student in molecular toxicology at UCLA.

Researchers applied DIM from broccoli, and Genistein, found in soy, to motile cancer cells and observed their effects. They found that the spread of cancer and the invasion of healthy cells were significantly reduced by the compounds.

This effect occurred because of DIM and Genistein’s effect on a compound produced by healthy cells that cancer cells are attracted to, thereby attracting the malignant cells to healthy organs. DIM and Genistein were found to reduce the production of this compound (CXCR4) in a manner directly proportional to the dose.

As a result, the movement toward the attractant in healthy cells was reduced by 80 percent in cancer cells treated with either of the plant compounds, compared with untreated cells. The researchers found the same effect when DIM or Genistein were applied to prostate cancer or melanoma cells.

Previous studies have indicated the cancer-preventive benefits of broccoli and soy, but this is one of the first to uncover part of the mechanism of that protection. The DIM and Genistein doses used in the UCLA study were probably higher than could be achieved through diet alone, the researchers said, meaning that nutritional supplementation would be required to achieve these medicinal effects.

Spirulina helps prevent oral cancer

Spirulina is a blue - green algae that supplies protein, carotenoids, and other micronutrients. In animal studies Spirulina inhibits oral cancer. In this study 87 chronic tobacco chewers with leukoplakia were given a gram a day of Spirulina or inactive placebo each day for one-year. Regression of precancerous lesions was observed in 45% (20 out of 44 subjects) of the Spirulina supplemented patients and in only 7% (or 3 out of 43 subjects) of the non-supplemented patients. One year after discontinuing Spirulina, 9 of the 20 patients (or 45% of the complete responders) who completely healed with Spirulina had a return of their lesions. The study was published in Nutrition and Cancer, 1995;24(2).