Human trial to test broccoli sprout extract's cancer-fighting properties
U.S. scientists plan to start a human clinical trial into the oral cancer-fighting properties of broccoli sprout extract, after tests on mice and a small human sample showed encouraging results.
Dr. Julie Bauman and Dr. Daniel E. Johnson from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) found giving sulforaphane - a molecule found in such crops as broccoli, cabbage, garden cress, kale and Brussels Sprouts - to mice that were predisposed to oral cancer significantly reduced the amount of tumors.
"The clear benefit of sulforaphane in preventing oral cancer in mice raises hope that this well-tolerated compound also may act to prevent oral cancer in humans who face chronic exposure to environmental pollutants and carcinogens," Johnson said in a release.
Bauman treated 10 healthy volunteers with fruit juice mixed with sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract, and found they felt no ill-effects while protective changes were detectable in the lining of their mouths.
The UPCI release said this meant the extract was absorbed and directed to at-risk tissue.
"People who are cured of head and neck cancer are still at very high risk for a second cancer in their mouth or throat, and, unfortunately, these second cancers are commonly fatal," said Bauman, who was the lead author in the study.
"So we’re developing a safe, natural molecule found in cruciferous vegetables to protect the oral lining where these cancers form."
The UPCI said these findings were enough to spark the clinical trial that will recruit 40 volunteers who have been curatively treated for head and neck cancer. Participants will regularly take capsules containing broccoli seed powder to see if they can tolerate the regimen, and whether it has enough of an impact on their oral lining to prevent cancer.
If that proves successful, a larger study might be warranted.
"We call this 'green chemoprevention,' where simple seed preparations or plant extracts are used to prevent disease," Bauman said.
"Green chemoprevention requires less money and fewer resources than a traditional pharmaceutical study, and could be more easily disseminated in developing countries where head and neck cancer is a significant problem."
Additional researchers in the study include Dr. Yan Zhang, Dr. Malabika Sen, Dr. Daniel P. Normolle, Dr. Thomas W. Kensler, Sumita Trivedi, Siddharth H. Sheth, Jennifer R. Grandis and Patricia A. Egner.
Previous studies, including large-scale trials in China, have shown cruciferous vegetables with high concentrations of sulforaphane help mitigate the effects of environmental carcinogens.
Photo: Julie Gibbons, via Wikimedia Creative Commons