Broccoli compound may treat leukemia

Concentrated form of a compound found in broccoli may be effective in treating leukemia, scientists say.

In a new study, purified sulforaphane, a naturally occuring compound in cruciferous vegetables, reduced the number of acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in a lab setting.

“Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer of the white blood cells common in children,” said Dr Daniel Lacorazza, assistant professor of pathology & immunology at Baylor College of Medicine.

“There is about an 80 per cent cure rate, but some children don’t respond to treatment. For those cases, we are in need of alternative treatments,” Lacorazza said in a statement.

Sulforaphane is believed to have both preventive and therapeutic properties in solid tumours. Studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of some cancers. Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables of the family Brassicaceae such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage.

“There have not been definitive studies showing how this compound interacts with blood cancers,” Lacorazza said.

To study how this compound would act on acute lymphoblastic leukemia, researchers led by Dr Koramit Suppipat, lead author of the study incubated human-derived leukemic cell lines and primary lymphoblasts from pediatric patients with the compound.

The cancer cells died while the healthy cells obtained from healthy donors were unaffected. Studies tested in pre-clinical mouse models showed similar results. Lacorazza said the compound works by entering the cells and reacting with certain proteins.

More studies will be needed, but researchers believe this compound could one day be used as a treatment option in combination with current therapies. While eating cruciferous vegetables is good for you, it will not have the same effect as what we saw in the lab,” said Lacorazza.

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