Based on findings of a recent study researchers say that certain chemicals found in the vegetable Broccoli might some day be used to help current and former smokers ward off development of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death worldwide.
Researchers say their study provides significant insight into the mechanisms of lung cancer prevention and suggests ways by which the process can be slowed down after exposure has already occurred.
The recent study was the first to test whether compounds, derived from naturally occurring isothiocyanates, could have an impact on the stages of cancer development specifically after exposure to cancer-causing elements.
For the study researchers induced lung tumor development in experimental mice by exposing them to tobacco carcinogens, and then they fed one group of mice the isothiocyanates. Use of the chemicals resulted in a reduced development of benign (harmless) lung tumors to malignant tumors, compared to mice that did not receive the compound.
In another study done looked at the effect of the same compound on human lung cancer cells, which were forced to grow quickly (as cancer does) because of insertion of a gene known to be involved in cell growth and regulation. Laboratory tests showed that the derivative of isothiocyanate significantly pushed the human lung cells to commit 'suicide', compared to cells that did not have the gene, suggesting that its use may stop fast growing lung cancer cells from the outset.
However researchers say that it is difficult to draw any direct comparisons between human consumption of these vegetables and the effects seen in the mice studies and they say that more research needs to be done in this regard.