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Brassica vegetables kill colon cancer cells in similar way to some cancer drugs
26 Jul 2004

When you prepare some vegetables plant chemicals are created which could destroy cancer cells the same way some cancer drugs do. The chemical is called allyl-isothiocyanate (AITC).

AITC undermines the cell division of colon cancer cells.

Cancer cells, unlike normal cells, do not shut down and kill themselves. They go on indefinitely and carry on dividing. A normal cell destroys itself and a new one is created.

When some vegetables, brassica vegetables, are chopped, chewed, cooked, processed and digested they create AITC. AITC is the result of the breakdown of a chemical compound called Sinigrin. Sinigrin is found in mustard, cabbage, horseradish, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, swede, kale and wasabi.

Cell division occurs when a parent cell divides to form two daughter cells during a four-stage process. In the second stage, known as metaphase, pole structures called spindles are created.

Anything that disrupts the construction and deconstruction of these spindles halts the process of cell division.

Previous studies have shown that damaged cells commit suicide in a process called apoptosis. We have also known for many years that sinigrin breakdown products kill cancer cells. But this is a previously unknown part of the process, working in a similar way to some anticancer drugs.

It is the first time the disruption of metaphase by an isothiocyanate has been explored in detail in relation to colon cancer prevention. AITC appears to selectively target tumour cells, unlike some other chemotherapeutic drugs that also harm healthy cells. However the mechanism needs further investigation.

Tracy K. Smith et al. (2004) Allyl isothiocyanate causes mitotic block, loss of cell adhesion and disrupted cytoskeletal structure in HT29 cells. Carcinogenesis (in press)

Research funded by the BBSRC Core Strategic Grant

Contact: Professor Ian Johnson

e-mail: ifr.communications@bbsrc.ac.uk

Source: Institute of Food Research



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