Researchers Fight Melanoma With Vegetables

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Melanoma treatment with vegetables

Researchers find new hope for fighting melanoma by harnessing compounds from nature. Broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are shown to reduce cancer risk. Scientists have now found a way to deliver beneficial compounds in vegetables to shut down key proteins responsible for the growth of melanoma.

Scientists from Penn State found that by targeting Akt3 protein, responsible for melanoma growth, they could stop the growth of melanoma. The findings have lead to the development of a class of anti-cancer compounds called isoselenocyanates. Gavin Robertson, associate professor of pharmacology, pathology and dermatology, Penn State College of Medicine says, "We have developed drugs from naturally occurring compounds that can inhibit the growth of tumors in mice by 50 to 60 percent with a very low dose.

By combining the compounds found in nature from cruciferous vegetables with selenium, the Penn State researchers discovered they could deliver a powerful drug given intravenously to fight melanoma. “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,” says Robertson.


Selenium deficiency is common in patients with melanoma. By replacing the sulfur bonds in vegetables with selenium, the researchers found they could increase the potency of isoselenocyanates for melanoma treatment, allowing delivery of the drug in small doses. Selenium also destabilizes Akt proteins in prostate cancer cells.

Scientists injected mice with ten million cancer cells. The mice were then treated with either the vegetable compounds alone, or the vegetables containing selenium. The results showed…”that the selenium-enhanced compounds significantly reduced the production of Akt3 protein and shut down its signaling network," reducing the growth of melanoma tumors by sixty percent.

Human trials may be several years away. The research shows how vegetables from nature can be harnessed to fight melanoma. The findings provide much hope for the development of isoselenocyanates from vegetables to fight other forms of cancer as well.

The study from Penn State researchers may lead to a better class of drugs from nature for the treatment of melanoma in humans. Toxic side effects can devastate the lives of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.