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Why These Vegetables Are the Best for Fighting Cancer

 By Victor Marchione, M.D.

Here is a catalogue of healing foods that ranks among the world’s best for nutrition: cruciferous vegetables. A diet that puts nutrition first puts these vegetables right up there at the top of the priority list.

Cruciferous vegetables, led by the heavy hitter broccoli, are also continually being studied for their disease-prevention abilities. Here comes another one and it’s a whopper: a chemical reason has been discovered for how they apparently fight cancer.

For the first time, researchers have identified certain substances within cruciferous veggies that appear to target and block a defective gene linked with cancer. Their report, which could lead to new strategies for preventing and treating cancer, appears in the "Journal of Medicinal Chemistry."

This group of vegetables is among the healthiest on the planet. It includes broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, Brussels sprouts, radish, bok choy, cabbage, and a slew of leafy greens such as arugula, collard greens and mustard greens. In the past, studies have found that those who consume higher levels of this food family have added protection from chronic illness.

Researchers showed in showed in previous experiments that substances called "isothiocyanates" (ITCs) found in this family appear to stop the growth of cancer. But nobody knew exactly how these substances work, a key to developing improved strategies for fighting cancer. The tumor-suppressor gene p53 appears to play a key role in keeping cells healthy and preventing them from starting the abnormal growth that is a hallmark of cancer. When mutated, p53 does not offer that protection, and those mutations occur in half of all cancer patients.

The new report says that ITCs might work by targeting this gene. They studied the effects of certain naturally occurring ITCs on a variety of cancer cells, with and without that defective tumor-suppressor gene. These included cases of lung, breast and colon cancer.

They found that ITCs are capable of removing the defective p53 protein, but seem to leave the normal one alone. Drugs based on natural or custom-engineered ITCs could improve the effectiveness of current cancer treatments or lead to new strategies for treating and preventing cancer.

For now, we know that ITCs come in high amounts within cruciferous vegetables. Eating them just might – although it will take a while to truly prove — shield your body from a tumor.