At the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia last week, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) along with UPMC Cancer Center announced that broccoli sprout extract helps protects against oral cancer in mice and proved to be tolerable in a small group of healthy human volunteers. The encouraging results will be examined further in a human clinical trial as the researchers will recruit participants at high risk for head and neck cancer recurrence later this year. People who are survivors of head and neck cancer are still at a very high risk for a second cancer in their mouth or throat. Unfortunately, these second cancers are frequently fatal.

The researchers at Pitt and the UPCI Head and Neck Cancer Program tested sulforaphane, the health-promoting compound in broccoli sprouts, by giving it to mice predisposed to oral cancer. The result was a significant reduction in the incidence of the cancer as well as in the amount of tumors that formed.

Earlier studies have demonstrated that cruciferous vegetables with a high concentration of sulforaphane help reduce the effects of environmental carcinogens. Sulforaphane targets several biological pathways that modulate Phase I enzymes and elevate Phase II enzymes that are present in all cells.

Once inside the cells, sulforaphane sends a signal to individual cellular enzymes that turns on the natural cellular defenses in these cells. Sulforaphane is capable of restoring the gene’s activity towards normal cell progression. Cells are naturally equipped with their own internal defense system. Much of the cell’s ability to defend itself is due to two main factors: sulforaphane’s ability to produce the antioxidants that quench harmful free radicals and detoxification enzymes to break down toxins.

Ten healthy volunteers were treated with a sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract. The protective changes were detectable in the lining of their mouths. These results prompted a study that will consist of forty volunteers who have been successfully treated and cured from head and neck cancer. The participants will regularly consume capsules containing a broccoli seed powder to determine the impact on their oral lining to prevent cancer.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. “Broccoli sprout extract promising for head and neck cancer prevention

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