Shivendra Singh, a professor of pharmacology and urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has previously shown that plant chemicals called isothiocyanates (ITCs) are highly effective in suppressing the growth of human prostate cancer cells, even at concentrations achieved through eating cruciferous vegetables such as watercress and broccoli.
In his current study, the researcher is hoping to further define the mechanisms by which ITCs induce apoptosis, or cancer cell death, to provide insights into the key structural relationships between ITCs and cell processes and to identify potential biomarkers that could be useful for future intervention trials involving ITCs.
"Clearly, what we eat has an effect on the development of diseases such as cancer," said Dr Singh, also co-leader of UPCI's cancer biochemoprevention program. "However, we know little about the mechanisms by which certain edible plants like broccoli help our bodies fight prostate cancer and other diseases. Our goal with this study is to better understand the function and relationship of substances in broccoli that appear to be linked to inhibiting prostate cancer growth."
In the United States, only 23 per cent of adults eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day. Meanwhile prostate cancer is second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths among US men, with more than 220,000 men expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and more than 31,000 will die of the disease.
ITCs are generated when vegetables are either cut or chewed. Previous research has demonstrated that ITCs are highly effective in affording protection against cancer in animal models induced by carcinogens including those in tobacco smoke.
"The knowledge we gain from this study will help guide us in formulating practical and effective nutritional strategies for the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer," said Dr Singh.
Dr Singh will also examine the effect of garlic on prostate cancer prevention.