Broccoli vs. Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Broccoli vs. Breast Cancer Stem Cells
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A new theory of cancer biology—cancer stem cells—and the role played by sulforaphane, a phytonutrient produced by cruciferous vegetables.

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Over the last decade, a new theory of cancer biology has emerged—the cancer stem cell. Normal stem cells are involved in organ repair. Stained here in red, they travel around the body, sit, and wait—until there’s 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 to 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 two or three years. All these new fancy therapies like antiangiogenesis—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 tumor.” 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, appears to inhibit breast cancer stem cells. Breast tissue naturally has lots of stem cells. Your body never knows when you’re going to get pregnant, and have 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; here’s an estrogen-receptor-negative breast tumor. Let’s add some broccoli juice. Going; going; nearly gone. Stem cell hotspots, before and after the broccoli.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Over the last decade, a new theory of cancer biology has emerged—the cancer stem cell. Normal stem cells are involved in organ repair. Stained here in red, they travel around the body, sit, and wait—until there’s 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 to 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 two or three years. All these new fancy therapies like antiangiogenesis—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 tumor.” 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, appears to inhibit breast cancer stem cells. Breast tissue naturally has lots of stem cells. Your body never knows when you’re going to get pregnant, and have 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; here’s an estrogen-receptor-negative breast tumor. Let’s add some broccoli juice. Going; going; nearly gone. Stem cell hotspots, before and after the broccoli.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Broccoli also protects our DNA. See DNA Protection From Broccoli, and my other videos on greens and my other videos on cancer.

Note that most of the sources for this video are open access, so you can click on them in the Sources Cited section, above, 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 vs. BroccoliTreating PMS with SaffronAre 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?.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

21 responses to “Broccoli vs. Breast Cancer Stem Cells

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  1. 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?

      1. I was once told by a nutritionist that the properties in broccoli can be increased in potency by eating it along with whole grain mustard. I’ve tried it a few times and it does make a tasty combination.

        1. Hi Kev Macleod,
          Thanks for your comment. Yes that is true Dr Greger mentions that, boiling broccoli prevents the formation of any significant levels of sulforaphane due to inactivation of the enzyme. However, addition of powdered mustard seeds to the heat processed broccoli significantly increased the formation of sulforaphane.

  2. I buy really cheap broccoli sprout seeds from E & R Seeds, an Amish source. About $5 dollars or more cheaper than most sites I have researched.

  3. Broccoli and onion has always been my favorite, in fact, it was the COMBO.
    Never scientifically knew why decades ago. But if you listened to your body, it will tell you, when it not polluted with all kinds of “addictive” chemicals.

  4. Would the same benefits derive from any or all other cruciferous veggies? I believe so but need confirmation. I like cauliflower and red cabbage because they are easier to incorporate into my meals.

  5. Hello Kay and thank you for your question,
    I am a family doctor with a private practice in lifestyle medicine (mainly plant-based nutrition), and I also volunteer for this website. You have an excellent question. The main study cited by Dr. Greger in this video (the first of the “Sources Cited”) is specifically about the effect of sulforaphane on suppressing growth of cancer stem cells. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about sulforaphane:

    Sulforaphane occurs in broccoli sprouts, which, among cruciferous vegetables, have the highest concentration of glucoraphanin, the precursor to sulforaphane.[1][2] It is also found in cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, collards, mustard greens, and watercress.[1] (I won’t give the two references cited — you can look them up).

    Here is a video by Dr. Greger about his “daily dozen”, where he discusses sulforaphane and various cruciferous vegetables: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist-2/

    It is probably not JUST the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables which helps fight cancer. Dr. Greger has often mentioned the problem of “reductionism” in the study of nutrition. Here is one video about that: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/reductionism-deficiency-mentality/. Yet, it’s helpful to know what are the likely most active ingredients, because then you can rank the various cruciferous veggies by how likely they are to help.

    In summary, I think that all cruciferous vegetables are helpful in preventing and even treating various cancers. But probably some are better than others, and apparently broccoli sprouts are some of the best.

    I hope this helps.
    Dr.Jon
    PhysicianAssistedWellness.com
    Health Support Volunteer for NutritionFacts.org

  6. Hello!
    I have just had a lumpectomy for breast cancer. I have been told that indole-3-carninol supplement will help. Is there any evidence to support this?
    I am 48 years old. Vegetarian since 14 years old. Non smoker. Very fit with no family history of breast cancer yet stil got it!

  7. Hi, Natalie! I am sorry you are having to deal with breast cancer. I think maybe you mean indole-3-carbinol? Just out of curiosity, who told you this supplement would help? In my opinion, you would be better served by eating home-grown broccoli sprouts daily. You can buy seeds inexpensively, and sprout them in a glass jar. Soak a couple of tablespoons of seeds in water overnight. In the morning, drain the water, rinse, and drain again. Cover the top of the jar with cloth or mesh. Rinse and drain two to three times daily, and sprouts will grow! Eat them on salads, wraps, sandwiches, smoothies, as a garnish for soups, or whatever strikes your fancy. I hope that helps!

    1. Hello Kristine, It was recommended by a friend and I looked at various sources online. They say it may help prevent/treat cancer as it derived from broccoli.
      I will try broccoli sprouts but would it help to take this supplement as well?

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