Broccoli in The Battle Against Prostate Cancer

What if you could suppress the genes which “turned on” prostate cancer? What if you could suppress the prostate cancer genes by eating certain foods?

Now what if that food is broccoli?

The horns of this dilemma are brought to you by scientists at Oregon State University. They determined that a compound found in broccoli may influence what was believed to be “junk DNA” that is now known to trigger cancer and assist it in spreading.

Junk DNA is the moniker biochemists have given to the long, non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) previously believed to have no function or value.

“This could be a turning point in our understanding of how cancer may be triggered and spreads,” said Emily Ho, director of the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health at Oregon State U.

“It is obviously of interest that this dietary compound, found at some of its highest levels in broccoli, can affect lncRNAs. This could open the door to a whole range of new dietary strategies, foods or drugs that might play a role in cancer suppression or therapeutic control,” said Ho.

One particular lncRNA, known as LINC01116, holds sway over prostate cancer. In the Oregon State U study, the scientists discovered a four-fold decrease in the ability of prostate cancer cells to form colonies when LINC01116 was disrupted. It can be disrupted through a treatment with sulforophane, a compound found in large amounts in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.

The data “reinforce the idea that lncRNAs are an exciting new avenue for chemoprevention research, and chemicals derived from diet can alter their expression,” the study's authors noted.

“We showed that treatment with sulforaphane could normalise the levels of this lncRNA,” said Laura Beaver, lead author.

“This may relate to more than just cancer prevention. It would be of significant value if we could develop methods to greatly slow the progress of cancer, help keep it from becoming invasive,” said Beaver.

Prostate cancer may only be the beginning. The authors noted that the same lncRNA is also over-expressed in studies of several other types of cancer, including brain, lung and colon cancer.

The research was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.