Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture
New research has identified one of the key cancer-fighting mechanisms for sulforaphane, and suggests that this much-studied phytochemical may be able to move beyond cancer prevention and toward therapeutic use for advanced prostate cancer.
Scientists said that pharmacologic doses in the form of supplements would be needed for actual therapies, beyond the amount of sulforaphane that would ordinarily be obtained from dietary sources such as broccoli. Research also needs to verify the safety of this compound when used at such high levels.
But a growing understanding of how sulforaphane functions and is able to selectively kill cancer cells indicate it may have value in treating metasticized cancer, and could work alongside existing approaches.
People who work around the clock could actually be setting themselves back, according to Virginia Tech biologists.
Researchers found that a protein responsible for regulating the body’s sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm, also protects the body from developing sporadic forms of cancers.
“The protein, known as human period 2, has impaired function in the cell when environmental factors, including sleep cycle disruption, are altered,” said Carla Finkielstein, an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and a Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Fellow.
After finding treatment possibilities in dandelion root extract, biochemistry professor Siyaram Pandey and the students in his lab have discovered a second natural extract that successfully targets cancer cells.
His latest paper shows that extract from the flowering plant long pepper makes cancer cells undergo apoptosis—essentially committing suicide.
MicroRNAs may be tiny — as few as 20 genetic letters, compared to 3 billion in the DNA of a human — but they play a major role in biology, helping to determine which genes are expressed or silenced. In the last 10 years, researchers at Yale and elsewhere have shown they play a major role in formation and spread of tumors.
However, their potential as a target for cancer therapy has not been realized because of a daunting problem that has held back clinical applications of gene therapy: How can you target minute pieces of genetic material locked safely inside the membranes of billions of cells?
Now a multi-disciplinary team of Yale researchers has solved the problem by designing a therapeutic molecule that both targets the acidic microenvironments of tumors and penetrates cells to deliver a therapeutic cargo. The new delivery system effectively killed advanced tumors in mice, the team reports in the Nov. 17 issue of the journal Nature.
“This strategy opens up a new pathway to therapy, not just for the treatment of cancer but for a host of other diseases as well,” said Donald Engelman, a co-author of the paper and the Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale.
The findings were result of an extensive collaboration between labs of Engelman, Peter Glazer, Mark Saltzman and Frank Slack.
Source: Yale University