New research contributes to the understanding of how I3C blocks cancer cells
An article published online on June 29, 2010 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research clarifies the role of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound metabolized from broccoli and Brussels sprouts, in preventing several types of cancer.
Researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James) describe the results of experiments with three human breast cancer cell lines which determined that I3C destroys Cdc25A, a molecule essential for cell division and proliferation. "Cdc25A is present at abnormally high levels in about half of breast cancer cases, and it is associated with a poor prognosis," explained lead researcher Xianghong Zou, who is an assistant professor of pathology at the Ohio State University Medical Center and a member of the OSUCCC-James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention program.
Dr Zou added that Cdc25A is also increased in prostate, liver, esophagus, endometrial and colon cancer, in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and in Alzheimer's and other diseases. "For this reason, a number of anti-Cdc25 agents have been identified, but they have not been successful for cancer prevention or treatment due to concerns about their safety or efficacy," he noted.
In another experiment, Dr Zou's team tested the effect of oral I3C supplementation in mice implanted with breast cancer cells and found a 65 percent average reduction in tumor size. In tumors that had a mutation that conferred resistance to I3C-induced degradation of Cdc25A, the effects of I3C were reduced.
"I3C can have striking effects on cancer cells, and a better understanding of this mechanism may lead to the use of this dietary supplement as an effective and safe strategy for treating a variety of cancers and other human diseases associated with the overexpression of Cdc25A," Dr Zou concluded.
There is no proven way to prevent breast cancer, but the best and most comprehensive scientific evidence so far supports phytochemicals such as I3C (Meng et al. 2000).
I3C was found to be superior to 80 other compounds, including tamoxifen, for anticancer potential. Indoles, which down-regulate estrogen receptors, have been proposed as promising agents in the treatment and prevention of cancer and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and lupus. Replacement of all the chemically altered estrogen drugs, such as tamoxifen, with a new generation of chemically altered indole drugs that fit in the aryl-hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor and regulate estrogen indirectly may prove beneficial to cancer patients (Bitonti et al. 1999). An I3C tetrameric derivative (chemically derived) is currently a novel lead inhibitor of breast cancer cell growth, considered a new, promising therapeutic agent for both ER+ and ER- breast cancer (Brandi et al. 2003).
A summary of studies shows that indole-3-carbinol (I3C) can:
Stop human cancer cells from growing (54-61%) and provoke the cells to self-destruct (apoptosis) (Telang et al. 1997)
Inhibit human breast cancer cells (MCF7) from growing by as much as 90% in vitro (Ricci et al. 1999)
Inhibit the growth of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer cells by 90%, compared to tamoxifen's 60%, by stopping the cell cycle (Cover et al. 1999)
Prevent chemically induced breast cancer in rodents by 70-96%. Prevent other types of cancer, including aflatoxin-induced liver cancer, leukemia, and colon cancer (Grubbs et al. 1995)
Inhibit free radicals, particularly those that cause the oxidation of fat (Shertzer et al. 1988)
Stop the synthesis of DNA by about 50% in estrogen-receptor-negative cells, whereas tamoxifen had no significant effect (Cover et al. 1998)
Restore p21 and other proteins that act as checkpoints during the synthesis of a new cancer cell. Tamoxifen has no effect on p21 (Cover et al. 1998)
Virtually eliminate DNA damage and cancer prior to exposure to cancer-causing chemicals (in animals fed I3C) (Grubbs et al. 1995)
Reduce DNA damage in breast cells by 91% (Devanaboyina et al. 1997)
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