Compounds in broccoli, soy stop cancer’s spread

By • Published: July 11th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

What’s green, looks like tiny trees attached to a stalk and helps fight cancer?

Yep, it’s broccoli.

Most folks know munching on broccoli florets is good for them, but researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have discovered that a chemical compound found in some vegetables may actually stop breast and ovarian cancer cells from spreading.

Produced when the body digests broccoli and its veggie cousins, this compound stymies a reaction between two proteins considered crucial for cancer cells to extend their empire. The reaction plays a significant role in the spread of both breast and ovarian cancer, and the discovery could lead to better treatments for both diseases.

The researchers tested both the broccoli compound and an isoflavone [i-so-FLAY-vone] found in soy to see how each affects cancer cells cultured in a dish.

First, they observed how these cells normally behave. Typically, the attack on other organs begins somewhat like a middle-school crush. Attracted to a protein on an organ, a protein found on the surface of the cancer cell prods the cell forward. But once the cell reaches the organ, it invades.

When researchers added the broccoli compound or the soy isoflavone to the mix, the cancer cells slowed down dramatically.

Researchers say nibbling on broccoli or soy won’t yield a high enough dose of these cancer-fighting compounds to protect you from disease. But someday researchers might distill these substances into a drug. And meanwhile, eating healthy foods like these has plenty of other benefits.