We have known for some time that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale may help protect us against cancer. Some of this activity has been attributed to a compound in these vegetables called sulphurophane which has attracted much attention since its discovery in 1992. The mechanism underlying this compound’s anti-cancer activity has remained unclear, until now. In a study published in the US Journal of Nutrition scientists describe how this compound works. Keith Singletary and colleagues at the University of Illinois exposed malignant human breast cells to sulphurophane in the laboratory and saw that it inhibited cell division and DNA synthesis in the cancer cells. Singletary suggests that sulphurophane works by disrupting cellular components called microtubules. These are long slender cylinders of a protein called tubulin that are required for the normal separation of the duplicated chromosomes during cell division. The findings may be useful in developing new treatments for breast cancer.
Jackson SJ, Singletary KW. 2004. Sulforaphane inhibits human MCF-7 mammary cancer cell mitotic progression and tubulin polymerization. Journal of Nutrition.134 (9) 2229-2236.