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D.iet & H.ealth : C.ancer Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Compounds in cruciferous vegetables kill cancer cells
By Ben Wasserman
Sep 17, 2006, 23:53

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Isothiocyanates,naturally occurring compounds,help kill cancer cells that are otherwise resistant to other conventional treatments, according to researchers from Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago in New Zealand.

Isothiocyanates are commonly found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, turnips, collards, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, rutabaga, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, horseradish, radish and watercress.

Earlier studies have already found the anti-cancer properties of isothiocyanates, which promote apoptosis - a programmed death of cancer cells. In the current study published in the American journal Cancer Research, researchers discovered that these compounds help kill cancer cells with high levels of Bcl-2 protein that are resistant to other treatments.

"The reason the Bcl-2 protein is dangerous is that it makes cells resistant to the normal cell-suicide or apoptosis process, that is vital for removing damaged cells from the body," explains Dr Mark Hampton, lead author of the study, from the Free Radical Research Group.

"A cancer cell with a lot of Bcl-2 has increased resistance to chemotherapy drugs that are used to destroy the tumor. We've found that Bcl-2 can't protect cancer cells against certain isothiocyanates."

The discovery is intriguing as the researchers may now synthesize anti-cancer drugs chemically similar to isothiocyanates to be used as chemotherapy drugs. Such drugs can overcome the protection cancer cells receive from bcl-2 protein, making other treatments more effective.

Earlier studies found isothiocyanates are effective in fighting lung and esophageal cancers and eating isothiocyanate-rich cruciferous vegetables can also reduce the risk of other cancers in the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract, according to Cancer Project, a not-for-profit organization.

Isothiocyanates work against cancer in at least three different ways, early studies showed. They prevent activation of cancer-causing agents or carcinogens, counteract the poisonous effects of activated carcinogens and speed up removal of carcinogens from the body, Cancer Project states, citing earlier studies.

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