Chemists from University of Illinois, confirmed that a compound modelled on a substance found in broccoli shows potential in fighting breast cancer. Previous research has suggested that sulforaphane, which occurs in broccoli and related vegetables, can help prevent cancer. It does so by increasing the level of detoxifying enzymes in the body. However, high doses of sulforaphane are toxic to cells so it may not be a practical option for drug development - and the amount of broccoli you may need to get the benefits could be excessive.
They have been working on a synthetic compound related to sulforaphane, called oxomate. They find this is far less toxic than sulforaphane, yet it still protects against cancer. Mice exposed to cancer-inducing chemicals were 50 per cent less likely to develop breast tumours if given oxomate, compared to animals who did not receive the compound.
Tests on humans are some way off, the researchers caution. But oxomate could one day lead to the development of a 'broccoli pill' that people could take to help them reduce their risk of cancer.