Better Living through Broccoli

Harnessing the Anti-Cancer Properties of Vegetables to Prevent Melanoma

A naturally-occurring anti-cancer compound extracted from broccoli sprouts shrinks tumors in mice and is currently undergoing clinical trials in humans.


Melanomas are aggressive, frequently metastatic tumors responsible for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. Advanced melanoma is generally difficult to treat, and a significant portion of patients will develop distant metastases even with early intervention. Given the continually rising incidence of melanoma — despite education about minimizing exposure to sunlight — there is a need for more effective prevention, especially in high risk individuals. Our plant-based oral drug could work together with behavioral modifications to minimize the risk of melanoma. The key ingredient of our drug is sulforaphane (SFN), which is a naturally-occurring anti-cancer compound found in low concentrations in vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Using enzymatic digestion of broccoli sprouts, we prepared capsules to provide people with a fixed quantity of SFN. In mice, this formulation and dosage delayed melanoma progression. Additionally, we identified possible SFN-related biomarkers for the progression of atypical moles to melanoma. We tested these biomarkers in a randomized, comparative study in human subjects with melanoma-dependent atypical nevi — a precursor and risk factor for melanoma.

Key Benefits

• Potential to prevent the development of melanoma • Natural product with no significant toxicity or side effects • Delivered orally


• Reduce the development of melanoma precursor lesions • Slow the progression of atypical moles into melanoma • Potentially applicable to other types of cancer

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