Mar 16, 2016

Eat your greens! Can broccoli help cancer drugs work better?

For decades, young and old have been told to ‘Eat your greens!’ at the dinner table as generations of mothers and grandmothers handed down the knowledge that vegetables, like cabbage and broccoli, kept the doctor away just as much as eating an apply a day.

Now, scientists in Switzerland have shown that a compound found in broccoli can help to make cancer drugs work better.

It has been recognised for many years that some foods have a range of health benefits, including helping the body to ward off certain conditions, helping with recovery and avoiding disease recurrence. Indeed, Professor Robert Thomas has carried out a great deal of research in this area (Pomi-T study) showing the benefits of a range of foodstuffs, such as broccoli.

One of the vegetables Professor Thomas has always recommended is broccoli. It is one of the foodstuffs than may positively influence the way endogenous enzymes work in the body.

Until now, only a few foodstuffs were known to help the effectiveness of certain treatments. But scientists at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich have examined the substance sulforaphane, a naturally occurring ingredient found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli. In the laboratory they tested a sample – a similar concentration to that which would find its way into the intestines – on colon cancer cells.

They found that this ingredient of broccoli helped to increase the concentrations of an enzyme that increases the effectiveness of certain cancer drugs.

The scientists concluded that when they pretreated colon cancer cells with sulphoraphane, less than a third of the usual dose of an anti-cancer drug was needed to kill the cancer cells.

In addition they could find no side effects that would harm a patient.

Researchers are now looking for other vegetables that might have the same beneficial effects as those created by eating broccoli.


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