Oral Cancer May Be Prevented By Ingesting Broccoli Sprout Extract, Study Says

First Posted: Jun 28, 2016 06:06 AM EDT

A new study showed how broccoli sprout extract can activate a gene that can detoxify cancer causing agents in the body, to prevent cancer recurrence in people who had neck and head cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that every year, there are over 30,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed in the United States, and more than 8,000 deaths are caused by the same cancer. The survival rate for the said cancer is lower than other cancer types. Experts said it's a 5-year survival rate of approximately 50 percent.

According to, lead author Julie Bauman said that patients with neck and head cancer are often cleared by doctors but come back with the cancer metastasizing and already too late for treatment a few years later. "Unfortunately, previous efforts to develop a preventative drug to reduce this risk have been inefficient, intolerable in patients and expensive. That led us to 'green chemoprevention'--the cost-effective development of treatments based upon whole plants or their extracts," she added.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and garden cress, was found to have a high concentration of the naturally occurring molecular compound called sulforaphane, which previously has been known to protect people against environmental carcinogens.

Medical News Today reported that Dr. Bauman noticed previous efforts to develop drugs to lower the risk of head and neck cancer from coming back "have been inefficient, intolerable in patients and expensive. That led us to 'green chemoprevention' - the cost-effective development of treatments based upon whole plants or their extracts."

For further analysis, Dr. Bauman and her colleagues treated human head and neck cancer cells inside the laboratory with different doses of sulforaphane together with a control. After that, they compared them to normal healthy cells lining the throat and mouth. The sulforaphane triggered both types of cells to increase their levels of a protein that turns on genes that promote detoxification of carcinogens, like those found in cigarettes, and protect cells from cancer.

For the small preclinical trial, researchers asked 10 healthy volunteers to drink or swished fruit juice mixed with broccoli sprout extract for a few days. A report by Science Daily said that the volunteers did not have any problems about the extract and their mouth lining appeared to have the same protective gene pathway activated in the laboratory cell tests was activated in their mouths. This means that the sulforaphane was absorbed and directed to at-risk tissue.

In another experiment, the researchers used mice to see how the extract worked in those at risk for head and neck cancer. Findings showed that the mice that received the extract developed fewer tumors, compared with those that did not. Because of the success of the studies, Dr. Bauman and her colleagues have started a larger clinical trial in humans who have been cured of head and neck cancer. The participants are currently taking capsules with broccoli seed powder.

"Together, our findings demonstrate preclinical chemopreventive activity of sulforaphane against carcinogen-induced oral cancer, and support further mechanistic and clinical investigation of sulforaphane as a chemopreventive agent against tobacco-related HNSCC [head and neck squamous cell carcinoma," the researchers said.

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