March 2, 2009
Compounds from the vegetables mixed with selenium, which is contained in Brazil nuts, have been shown to prevent the skin cancer and work better at attacking tumours than conventional treatment, researchers said.
They believe that mixing isothiocyanates, the substances that give the greens flavour, and selenium found in the nuts, may even be added to sun screen lotion in future.
Laboratory tests suggest that these compounds target tumours more safely and effectively than traditional methods.
Now work is under way to develop the first commercially available drugs made from a cocktail of compounds to fight skin cancer.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University in the US have already made a drug which can halt the growth of skin cancer tumours in mice by up to 60 per cent.
Professor Gavin Robertson, of the university's College of Medicine, said up until now there have been no drugs that target proteins which trigger melanoma.
He said: "We have developed drugs from naturally occurring compounds that can inhibit the growth of tumours in mice by 50 to 60 per cent with a very low dose."
Initial tests found the potency of the broccoli and cabbage compounds was so low that a successful drug would require large, impractical amounts of these compounds.
Instead, the researchers boosted the effectiveness of the compounds by adding selenium, a trace mineral already known for its antioxidant properties.
The result was a much more potent drug that can be delivered intravenously in low doses.
In tests on mice, the mixture was found to reduce the growth of tumours by 60 per cent.
Human trials of the new drug are still some years away, but Prof Robertson forecasts a drug that could be delivered either intravenously to treat skin cancer or added to sunscreen lotion to prevent the disease occurring.