Chemicals found in green vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, could become a potent drug that will successfully fight melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Scientists at Pennsylvania State University in the United States, found that compounds extracted from cruciferous vegetables, in combination with selenium, target tumors more safely and effectively than traditional methods. Selenium is a trace mineral that helps in production of the antioxidant enzymes, which, in turn, prevent cell damage from free radicals. Patients with cancer in most cases are deficient in this mineral which can be found in Brazil nuts and bread.
According to Gavin Robertson, associate professor of pharmacology, pathology and dermatology at Penn State College of Medicine, there are no drugs at this point available in medicine that could fight proteins which cause melanoma occurrence, but the scientists have come up with the medication from a cocktail of natural compounds that can prevent the growth of tumors between 50 to 60 per cent in a small dosage.
For the study, Robertson and his colleagues chose genetically engineered mice with skin cancer. They divided all the mice into 2 groups: one group was just given vegetable compounds, and the other one was treated with the mix of vegetable compounds that contained selenium. Interestingly enough, the results showed that there was a significant reduction in the production of Akt3 protein with the help of the compounds that were enhanced by selenium. Vegetable compounds that contained selenium greatly decreased the signaling network of the protein, bringing down by 60 per cent the growth of melanoma tumors.
When later the scientists exposed three different human melanoma cell lines to the two natural compounds, the selenium-enhanced drug worked better on some cell lines and did not work effectively on the others. Depending on the cell line, the efficiency ranged from 30 to 70 per cent.
The exact mechanism of how selenium fights or prevents cancer still remains unclear. However, Robertson is convinced that the use of naturally occurring compounds that would battle proteins causing melanoma, could lead to more effective ways of treating the deadly disease. The expert explained that the best thing about the findings is that effective anti-melanoma medication on natural compounds, in the form of sunscreen lotion or injection, would mean less toxic side effects for cancer patients, since only very small amounts of it are needed in order to kill the cancerous cells.
Melanoma, is considered as the most serious type of skin cancer. It develops in the skin cells called melanocytes, cells that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives the skin its color. Extended exposure to the sun, use of tanning lamps and sun-beds are the factors that have strongly been linked to the condition.
Before any final conclusions are made, the study is yet to be conducted on humans. Until that time, people, in order to prevent skin cancer, should take into consideration some simple but very important precautions, such as avoiding sun exposure, sunbathing and tanning salons, using sunscreen lotions, preferably the ones that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and wearing protective clothes like, shirts with longer sleeves, pants and a hat while going out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, it is importsnt to never forget to eat healthy diet and lots of green vegetables.
The work was funded by the American Cancer Society, The Foreman Foundation for Melanoma Research, National Institutes of Health, Elsa U. Pardee Foundation and Melanoma Research Foundation.