A component in soy that researchers have discovered can prevent and even treat colon cancer.
Scientists from Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland have claimed that the new class of therapeutic agents, known as Sphingadienes (SDs), is found naturally in soy.
The team led by Julie Saba, MD, PhD, senior scientist and director of the Cancer Center at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), identified SDs in the fruit fly, an organism that is sometimes used to study the genetics of human diseases.
They observed that raised level of SDs induced the death of mutant cells in the fly, revealing SDs to be cytotoxic compounds (toxic to cells).
And, since it was already known that preventative colon cancer strategies often focus on cell death, the researcher reached the conclusion that soyabean products, which are rich in SDs, can be helpful in preventing the third deadliest form of cancer.
Saba said: "It's very exciting. First, we are encouraged to find a natural molecule that could be consumed through soy products as a strategy to help prevent colon cancer.
"Second, this information is important because we can build on our understanding of the structure and metabolism of SDs in terms of developing new drugs to treat people who already have colon cancer.
"Uncovering how SDs exert their effects also helps us to find the most likely combinations of drugs that may work synergistically to eliminate cancer cells and mutant cells that could give rise to cancer."
She concluded: "I would be comfortable recommending soy products as a change in the diet that could protect against cancer. The more that soy is studied, the more of these protective agents are found, so it's a very healthy diet choice."
The study will be published in the December 15, 2009 issue of ancer Research.