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Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer

Study in mice suggests that component keeps stem cells from generating new tumors

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Eating broccoli just might have benefits in the fight against breast cancer.

At least in mice, a compound derived from broccoli appears to be able to kill breast cancer stem cells, which help tumors grow, according to a new study. But it's too soon to know if the compound would work in people. And the amount tested is larger than the amount people could consume in their diet.

The compound, known as sulforaphane, "has been studied previously for its effects on cancer, but this study shows that its benefit is in inhibiting the breast cancer stem cells," study co-author Duxin Sun, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, said in a university news release.

The researchers administered sulforaphane to mice with breast cancer and monitored the number of cancer stem cells in their tumors. They found that the treated mice had fewer of the cells and that they couldn't generate new tumors. Tests on human breast cancer cells in the laboratory resulted in similar decreases in cancer stem cells, they reported.

"This research suggests a potential new treatment that could be combined with other compounds to target breast cancer stem cells," Dr. Max S. Wicha, an oncology professor and director of the university's Comprehensive Cancer Center, and also a study co-author, said in the news release. "Developing treatments that effectively target the cancer stem cell population is essential for improving outcomes."

The study was published May 1 in Clinical Cancer Research.

More information

Visit the American Cancer Society for more about breast cancer.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of Michigan, press release, May 3, 2010

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