It is widely accepted that diet usually plays a major role in health. A team of scientists from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore in Clementi is working to engineer a healthy cocktail of designed probiotics and vegetable derivatives that can suppress colorectal cancer cells. So far, their results have been very promising – the cocktail suppressed a majority of cancer cells in both in vitro (outside of living organism; in test tubes or petri dishes, for example) and in vivo (on a live organism) experiments.
"One exciting aspect of our strategy is that it just capitalizes on our lifestyle, potentially transforming our normal diet into a sustainable, low-cost therapeutic regimen. We hope that our strategy can be a useful complement to current cancer therapies.” says Professor Matthew Chang, who invented the new recipe along with Dr. Chun-Loong Ho and other colleagues.
The solution they created and tested has two main parts: an altered probiotic and a component of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. Together, through a series of chemical reactions, the ingredients can fight colorectal cancer.
The probiotic was engineered to contain a non-disease-causing strain of E.coli. When the specialized probiotic bonds to a protein in the cancer cells, an enzyme called myrosinase is produced. Myrosinase then interacts with the vegetable component named glucosinate.
Myrosinase converts the glucosinate into a phytochemical known as sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has previously been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and cancer-defense properties. Healthy, non-cancerous cells do not convert glucosinate nor are they affected by sulforaphane.
The team combined the probiotic they designed to either a solution of glucosinate or broccoli extract and then added it to a petri dish that held colorectal cancer cells. They found that more than 95 percent of the cancer cells were suppressed, regardless of whether the cells were human, mouse or lab-produced. Also, mice with colorectal cancer tumors responded to the concoction with a 75 percent reduction in the number of tumors. The remaining mouse tumors were also three times smaller. When tested on other cancers, the experiment showed no impact on either breast or stomach cancer cells. Dr. Ho and his colleagues hope this recipe can both prevent colorectal cancer and be used after other cancer treatments to kill remaining cancer cells.
"Mothers are right after all, eating vegetables is important,” says Dr. Ho.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer to be diagnosed in the U.S. and it is No. 2 in causes of cancer deaths, behind lung and bronchial cancer. A total of 135,430 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2017.