Two Superfoods May Make Breast Cancer More Treatable, Research Shows

Two Superfoods May Make Breast Cancer More Treatable, Research Shows
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A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables and green tea may help make breast cancer more treatable, according to new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The study, which was published in Scientific Reports, has found that this combination of foods may make estrogen receptor-negative or ER-negative breast cancer, one of the most deadly types of this cancer, highly treatable.

“Unfortunately, there are few options for women who develop ER-negative breast cancer,” Trygve Tollefsbol, PhD, DO, a professor of biology and senior scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a news release regarding the research. “Because of the poor prognosis this type of cancer carries, new advances in prevention and treatment for ER-negative breast cancer have particular significance.”

ER-negative breast cancer represents about 20 percent of cases. As opposed to ER-positive breast cancer, which is characterized by cancer cells that grow in response to the hormone estrogen and can thus be fairly easily treated with hormone therapy, ER-negative cancer does not respond to this sort of treatment.

The new research shows that bioactive botanicals such as EGCG in green tea and sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts can help to convert ER-negative tumors into ER-positive tumors, making the cancer far easier to treat.

The study authors note that combining two compounds in this way is often perceived as a risky solution.

“One reason many in the field shy away from combining two or more compounds at a time for treatment research is the fear of adverse effects and potential interactions that are unknown,” Tollefsbol says. “To overcome that concern, we chose compounds that we felt confident would interact well together because they have similar favorable biological effects, but still have different mechanisms for carrying out these effects that would not interfere with one another.”

This research examined the effects of these compounds in mice; the next step will be to take this research into the clinical trial stage.

Other foods that contain sulforaphane and may therefore contribute to increased treatability of this type of cancer include kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and watercress.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.