In broccoli the key to knock out tumors

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PLAN cancer by awakening PTEN, one of the main "guardians" of cells that normally protects the body from tumors but, in many cases, may not function properly, becoming the Trojan horse for various oncological diseases. Such as? Taking advantage of the action of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a natural compound found in some vegetables on our tables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. The discovery, published in Science, comes from the US but speaks Italian: the first author of the study is in fact Pier Paolo Pandolfi, Italian geneticist who directs the Cancer Center and of the Cancer Research Institute of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Bidmc) of Harvard Medical School of Boston (USA).

To reach these conclusions the research team used different samples of human cells and animal models – mice – thanks to which it was able to identify the actors involved in this molecular process: "We have found a way to reactivate PTEN, the Titan of tumor suppression, blocking the WWP1 molecule, that is the switch that keeps PTEN off, with the compound present in the broccoli ", explains Pandolfi.

A weapon against multiple types of cancer

This is a promising strategy that would make it possible to expand the preventive and therapeutic options against cancer: "Inactivation of PTEN is very frequent and being able to awaken this molecule pharmacologically is a very important weapon in our favor", adds the geneticist. In fact, although the study focused on prostate cancer samples, the approach proposed by the researchers "should work in many types of high-impact cancer, including breast cancer," and liver, because in these types of tumors the WWP1 oncogene is very abundant. "In summary PTEN is the good Titan, while WWP1 is the bad oncogene, I would say very bad," points out Pandolfi. It is in fact an enzyme, already known for its role in the development of cancer, and which, as the expert explains, keeps the guardian of the cells off.

The anticancer molecule is green

During the study, the researchers then conducted biochemical analyzes and computer simulations thanks to which they were able to identify the molecule present in vegetables – indole-3-carbinol – that is able to awaken the control systems against the growth and uncontrolled proliferation of cells in which the PTEN oncosuppressor is involved, thus laying the foundations for the development of a new anti-cancer strategy. Which, as this study predicts, works: the treatment based on this molecule, and tested on some animal models, has allowed the reduction of the tumor both in terms of weight and size. In short, the compound contained in vegetables could become a good ally in the fight against cancer, thanks to its ability to counteract the harmful effects of the WWP1 oncogene.

So eating broccoli could keep us away from cancer? Certainly, the expert concludes, "this discovery emphasizes the importance of introducing plant foods, such as cruciferous vegetables" into the diet, namely broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. "And it represents another demonstration that a diet high in vegetables and fiber is good". But be careful not to give in to the temptation to stay away from the oncological disease with a plate of vegetables: to get the potential anti-cancer benefit, we would need generous doses. In order for the natural compound to be effective "kilograms of broccoli should be eaten, about 7. For this – concludes Pandolfi – at the moment the pure compound is the only alternative if we wanted to develop clinical trials".


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. (tagsToTranslate) nutrition and cancer (t) diet and cancer (t) food and cancer (t) cancer and diet (t) broccoli (t) cruciferous (t) cauliflower (t) prostate tumor (t) plant (t) Paolo Pandolfi

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