A powerful cancer fighter might be sitting right on your plate.
A new study from Baylor College of Medicine researchers shows that a compound found in cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, is able to kill leukemia cells in the laboratory.
The findings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, showed that incubating the compound, called sulforaphane, with cells of acute lymphoblastic leukemia caused the cancer cells to die. Plus, the sulforaphane didn't seem to have any kind of effect on healthy cells.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is particularly common in children, and can be cured about 80 percent of the time, researchers said. But the findings are important because "some children don't respond to treatment," study researcher Dr. Daniel Lacorazza, an assistant professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor, said in a statement. "For those cases, we are in need of alternative treatments."
Even though sulforaphane is found in cruciferous vegetables, it's important to note that the researchers used a concentrated form of the compound. "So while eating cruciferous vegetables is good for you, it will not have the same effect as what we saw in the lab," Lacorazza said in the statement. But still, the findings could be applied to future treatments for this particular type of leukemia.
A past study in the journal Clinical Cancer Research also showed that sulforaphane is able to kill breast cancer stem cells in mice and in lab cultures, and also prevented new tumor cells from growing. Previous studies have sought out to find just why sulforaphane seems to have these anti-cancer properties. In a study published earlier this year in the journal Clinical Epigenetics, Linus Pauling Institute researchers found that it might work through epigenetics -- the term for how factors like diet and toxins can affect our genetic codes and the way our genes are "expressed." For more on that research, click here.