Researchers have found that the sprout extract of broccoli could prevent people from head and neck cancer. The results of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) study conducted on mice, will be further explored in a human clinical trial, which will recruit participants at high risk for the recurrence of disease later this year.
Lead author Dr. Julie Bauman, co-director of the UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Center of Excellence, said that people who were cured of the disease still faced high risk for a second cancer in their mouth or throat, and, unfortunately, the second cancers were commonly fatal.
They were hence developing a safe, natural molecule found in cruciferous vegetables to protect the oral lining where these cancers form.
Dr. Bauman collaborated with Daniel E. Johnson, professor of medicine at Pitt and a senior scientist in the UPCI Head and Neck Cancer Program, to test sulforaphane in the laboratory. For several months, Dr. Johnson and his team gave sulforaphane to mice predisposed to oral cancer and found that it significantly reduced the incidence and number of tumors.
The findings were enough to prompt a clinical trial that will recruit 40 volunteers who have been curatively treated for head and neck cancer. The participants will regularly take capsules containing broccoli seed powder to determine if they can tolerate the regimen and whether it has enough of an impact on their oral lining to prevent cancer. From there, larger clinical trials could be warranted.
Dr. Bauman, also an associate professor in Pitt's School of Medicine, said they called it "green chemoprevention," where simple seed preparations or plant extracts were used to prevent disease. It required less money and fewer resources than a traditional pharmaceutical study, and could be more easily disseminated in developing countries where head and neck cancer was a significant problem.
The results were announced at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.