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Originally published March 3 2009

Natural Compounds in Vegetables plus Selenium Fight Melanoma

by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

(NaturalNews) According to the National Cancer Institute about 67,720 people in the US were diagnosed last year with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, and around 8,420 Americans died from this malignancy. Melanoma can become deadly if it spreads to other parts of the body -- because that makes it particularly difficult to treat. But now research just published in the March edition of the journal Clinical Cancer Research concludes a compound derived from vegetables, especially when combined with the micronutrient selenium, may deliver a knock-out punch to this potentially lethal kind of cancer.

There are currently no drugs that can shut down the Akt3 protein which triggers the development of melanoma. However, Penn State College of Medicine scientists have discovered that a class of naturally occurring chemicals called isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables (which include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels spouts) appears to target this protein. And the Penn State researchers found they could make the isothiocyanates even more potent at lower doses by "rewiring" them with trace mineral selenium.

"Selenium deficiency is common in cancer patients, including those diagnosed with metastatic melanoma," explained lead researcher Gavin Robertson, associate professor of pharmacology, pathology and dermatology at Penn State, in a statement to the media. "Besides, selenium is known to destabilize Akt proteins in prostate cancer cells."

To study the effectiveness of the isothiocyanates-plus-selenium compound (dubbed isoselenocyanate) the scientists injected laboratory mice with 10 million cancer cells. After six days, the rodents developed large tumors. Then half were treated with the vegetable compounds and the others were treated with the same naturally occurring chemicals supplemented with selenium. When combined with selenium, the compounds resulted in a 60 percent reduction in the rate of growth of the cancerous tumors, compared to the vegetable-only compounds. The researchers also tested three different human melanoma cell lines with the two versions of the compounds and determined the selenium-enriched version was 30 to 70 percent effective in inhibiting the human cancer cells.

"We found that the selenium-enhanced compounds significantly reduced the production of Akt3 protein and shut down its signaling network," Robertson, who is associate director of translational research and leader of the experimental therapeutics program at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, said in the press statement. "We have harnessed something found in nature to target melanoma. And since we only need tiny amounts to kill the cancer cells, it means even less toxic side-effects for the patient."

The cancer fighting properties of cruciferous vegetables have been documented in many studies. In additional new research recently published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, University of Milan scientists reported that eating broccoli appears to help protect smokers from lung cancer.

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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