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Vegetable compounds may help treat leukemia

Category: Leukemia and WBC disorders

A recent lab study led by Koramit Suppipat, M.D., has found that sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli and other vegetables, may help combat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which can be detected with a blood test.

"Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer of the white blood cells common in children," said Dr. Daniel Lacorazza, Ph.D. "There is about an 80 percent cure rate, but some children don't respond to treatment. For those cases, we are in need of alternative treatments."

While previous studies have shown that people who eat plenty of vegetables may have lower rates of cancer, the present research honed in on a concentrated form of sulforaphane and the effect it would have on tumors.

During the study, researchers introduced the compound to healthy human cells as well as incubated leukemia cells, which were obtained from pediatric patients. The sulforaphane eliminated the cancer cells and did not harm the healthy ones. The same results were experienced when the compound was used on mouse models. According to Lacorazza, the sulforaphane works by entering the cancer cells and interacting with certain proteins. He also noted that while broccoli and other vegetables contain the beneficial ingredient, a purer form was used in the study, so people consuming vegetables should not expect to experience the same effects.

While further investigations are warranted, physicians believe that the sulforaphane may eventually be used as a leukemia treatment in conjunction with existing cancer therapies.

About acute lymphoblastic leukemia
According to the Mayo Clinic, ALL is a cancer that's present in the blood and bone marrow. It is called acute due to its ability to develop rapidly, and the word lymphoblastic comes from the lymphocytes, or the white blood cells, that it affect.

Some symptoms of ALL include bleeding from the gums and nose, pain in the bones, fever, chronic infections, lumps in the armpits, neck, abdomen and groin (which are caused by swollen lymphnodes), pale skin and fatigue. ALL may be present in adults but it is most commonly diagnosed in children.

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