Broccoli against cancer: popular tradition has been scientifically confirmed

Broccoli against cancer
File Medical News Today

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — According to a recent study, a substance found in cruciferous vegetables activates a mechanism that leads to the suppression of malignant growth.

Israeli researchers have published in Science the results of scientific work, which allowed to understand one of the mechanisms that allow the body to suppress the growth of a malignant tumor. As it turned out, this mechanism can be activated using a substance called indole-3-carbinol – a natural component of many cruciferous plants (or cabbage), which is especially abundant in broccoli.

The fact that cruciferous are good for health can be found in many popular publications. In particular, it is often possible to hear that they help in the prevention of cancer. It must be said that such reports are often based on a very fragile scientific foundation and cause ridicule of scientists and physicians.

This is especially true for cancer – the disease is often fatal, the causes and mechanisms of development of which are complex and in many ways still mysterious.

American enthusiasts have created a comic resource Kill or Cure? (“Kill or heal?”), Which contains links to publications in the mass press that this or that substance is supposedly capable of causing or preventing cancer. The various substances there are listed alphabetically, and many of them fall into both categories: bread, for example, contributes to the development of cancer according to five sources and prevents cancer, according to three others.

Obviously, no need to explain that in fact the use of bread does not affect the development of oncological diseases in any way. However, according to the same resource, the reputation of broccoli is immaculate: all references in the press are in the category of “cure”.

Cases where such pseudoscientific legends contain real confirmation are not frequent. The work of Israeli biologists is just such an example.

It is about a protein called PTEN. Such proteins are called once suppressants: they are part of the mechanism by which the body recognizes the cancer cell in a timely manner and destroys it. It became clear when it was discovered that in many cancers, the PTEN gene was either mutated or was not working effectively enough.

Restoring the activity of this protein can be one of the ways to fight cancer. Professor Pier Paolo Pandolfi, who works in Israel, decided to find out what this activity depends on and how he regulates it.

For normal operation, the PTEN protein must be located on the cell membrane as a dimer (two protein molecules are joined together). The researchers found that the formation of such dimers is hampered by another protein – WWP1, belonging to the class of ubiquitin-ligase. Proteins of this class are busy inspecting other cell proteins, find among them those that are not needed by the body, and mark them in a special way. PTEN labeled with ubiquitinum loses activity: it is not able to form dimers, adhere to the cell membrane and perform the function of an oncosuppressor.

According to the researchers’ assumption, in order to shift the cellular equilibrium towards the active form of the PTEN oncosuppressor, it is sufficient to dampen the activity of WWP1 ubiquitin ligase. After analyzing the shape of the molecule of this enzyme, biologists came to the conclusion that a small molecule of organic matter of indole-3-carbinol should bind to the active center and deprive of its activity.

As a result, PTEN protein will begin to accumulate in an active form and more noticeably show its anti-cancer properties. Experiments on rodents and on cultures of human cells confirmed this assumption. Indole-3-carbinol – a substance from cruciferous leaves – really possessed the ability to “remove from the brake” the regulatory mechanism of onco-suppression, acting through the PTEN protein, and delay the division of cancer cells.

Of course, the practical significance of this work is not at all to advise patients to eat more broccoli. To get a dose of indole-3-carbinol, equivalent to that used in the experiments, the patient would need to eat about 2.5 kg of raw broccoli daily – if it doesn’t kill him, he will suffer suffering comparable to the most aggressive anti-cancer therapies.

The meaning of work is different: to find out the mechanism of regulation of the PTEN tumor suppressor and find an opportunity to whip up its activity. It is possible that this will be done with the help of drugs based on indole-3-carbinol, which will have a sufficiently high activity and specificity.

Another way is possible: to act directly on the WWP1 gene, suppressing its activity in one way or another.

According to Professor Pandolfi , “genetic or pharmacological inactivation of WWP1 using the technology of editing CRISPR genes or indole-3-carbinol is able to restore the function of PTEN and allow it to show its activity oncosuppressor. This result opens up the possibility of treating cancer by reactivating suppressors, an approach that they have been trying to find for a long time.”

However, while scientists are working in this direction, we are entitled to draw our own conclusions at the household level: there are more broccoli and other cruciferous ones. The fact that it is useful has been known before, but the result of flawlessly conducted scientific research can strengthen the self-sacrificing determination necessary for this.

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