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Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells

A new theory of cancer biology—cancer stem cells—and the role played by sulforaphane, a phytonutrient produced by cruciferous vegetables.

March 12, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to Mikael Häggström, Nissim Benvenisty, and Peter Znamenskiy via Wikimedia Commons, the Gurdon Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and New York State Stem Cell Science.


Over the last decade a new theory of cancer biology has emerged, the cancer stem cell. Normal stem cells are involved in organ repair, they travel around the body, sit and wait until they’re some damage, and step in and replace whatever structures are necessary. Lost a little skin here, bone or muscle there, need to regrow a new tooth, these cells are ready and willing. And, the best part, they’re built to last a lifetime. But those same qualities, migration, colonization, proliferation, self-renewal, immortality can be used against us, when stem cells go bad, and decide to build tumors instead.
Cancer stem cells may explain cancer spread and cancer recurrence. That may be why cancer tends to come back. There may be no cure, only remission. You can have a breast cancer relapse 20-25 years after you thought it went away. Thanks, potentially, to cancer stem cells.
Our current armamentarium of chemo drugs and radiation is based on animal models. If the tumor shrinks, it’s a success. But lab rats only live 2 or 3 years. All these new fancy therapies like antiangiogeneisis, cutting off the blood supplies to tumors? That’s great, but the cancer stems cells may be like fine, I’ll go somewhere else and grow another one. What we need is to strike at the root of cancer, treatments aimed not at just reducing tumor bulk, but rather at targeting the ‘beating heart’ of the tumor, the cancer stem cell. Enter, broccoli.
Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli, and broccoli sprouts, appeats to inhibit breast cancer stem cells. Breast tissue, naturally has to have lots of stem cells. Your body never knows when you’re going to get pregnant and need to start making a lot of new milk glands. Researchers recently discovered this compound in broccoli that may destroy cancerous stem cells and keep them from going rogue in the first place.
Estrogen receptor positive human breast tumor; estrogen receotpr negative breast tumor. Let’s add some broccoli juice. Going … going, … nearly gone. Stem cell hotspots before, and after.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Broccoli also protects our DNA. See the preceding video-of-the-day,DNA Protection From Broccoli, and my other 35 videos on greens and 98 videos on cancer. And those are two of the 1,290 topics I cover here at Note that most of the sources for this video are all open access, so you can click on them above in the Sources Cited section and read them full-text for free.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. BroccoliFighting Inflammation with Food SynergyAntioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and SpicesHow to Enhance Mineral AbsorptionBreast Cancer Stem Cells Versus BroccoliTreating PMS with Saffron, Are Bioidentical Hormones Safe?The Anti-Wrinkle DietIncreasing Muscle Strength with FenugreekHow Tumors Use Meat to GrowMushrooms for Breast Cancer PreventionPrevent Breast Cancer by Any Greens NecessaryFoods That May Block Cancer Formation, and Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Broccoli also protects our DNA. See the preceding video-of-the-day, DNA Protection From Broccoli, and my other 35 videos on greens and 98 videos on cancer. And those are two of the 1,290 topics I cover here at Note that most of the sources for this video are all open access, so you can click on them above in the Sources Cited section and read them full-text for free.

  • hcdr

    Broccoli, I love you.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

       broccoli loves you back!

  • Zsuzsi99

    The amazing brocolli! How much broccoli does one need to consume to protect from Breast cancer, and what is the best way to ingest? Does it need to be raw, and how do you recommend it should be made?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please also check out my associated blog post Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli!

  • Hijbf

    Does it also affect other stem cells? Or is it specific to breast cells alone?