~ 050710 Broccoli Compound Targets Breast Cancer Stem Cells

In research conducted at the University of Michigan, a compound known as sulforaphane, found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts, was demonstrated to target cancer stem cells in cell cultures and in mice. Cancer stem cells, which are not destroyed by chemotherapy, are believed to be involved in the ability of breast cancer to recur, grow and spread. "The existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in breast cancer has profound implications for cancer prevention," the authors note in their introductory remarks to their article, published in the May 1, 2010 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Duxin Sun, PhD and colleagues injected varying concentrations of sulforaphane derived from broccoli extract into mice implanted with breast cancer tumors. The concentrations of sulforaphane tested were higher than those provided by normal consumption of broccoli or its sprouts.

Examination of the animals' tumors uncovered a substantial reduction in cancer stem cells, while normal cells did not appear to be significantly affected. Additionally, cancer cells derived from animals that received sulforaphane that were reimplanted into other mice failed to form tumors. Tests in cultured human breast cancer cells showed a similar reduction in cancer stem cells.

"Sulforaphane has been studied previously for its effects on cancer, but this study shows that its benefit is in inhibiting the breast cancer stem cells," stated Dr Sun, who is also an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. "This new insight suggests the potential of sulforaphane or broccoli extract to prevent or treat cancer by targeting the critical cancer stem cells."

"This research suggests a potential new treatment that could be combined with other compounds to target breast cancer stem cells," commented coauthor and Distinguished Professor of Oncology Max S. Wicha, MD, who directs the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Developing treatments that effectively target the cancer stem cell population is essential for improving outcomes."

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