Biomedical Bulletin

NEWS IN BRIEF

Biomedical Bulletin
Every month a great deal of new biomedical information comes to our attention, but we can’t report on all of it, because of space limitations and our desire to do justice to our topics. With the introduction of Biomedical Bulletin last month, we’re testing the water with a different format, designed to bring you more topics while taking up less of your valuable time. Please let us know what you think, pro or con, about this new feature.

DIM May Help Prevent Prostate Cancer
Compound derived from cruciferous vegetables benefits mice and, probably, men

en, if you haven’t been thinking about your prostate gland, you haven’t been paying attention to the news. One of the most publicized cases of prostate cancer in recent years was that of Rudy Giuliani, who dropped out of the 2002 Senate race against Hillary Clinton because of it (fortunately, he seems to have made a full recovery). Millions of other men have it or have had it, however, and it’s the second-leading cause of cancer death (after lung cancer) among men in Western industrialized countries.1

Prostate cancer is so common in men over 65, in fact, that doctors claim that every man will get it if he lives long enough. That view is unacceptable to many men, especially those who realize that prostate cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent, mainly by eating a low-fat diet, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking. But there are other ways as well, such as suppressing estrogenic activity, which increases in men as they age (because more and more testosterone is converted to estrogen) and which is implicated in certain cancers, particularly that of the prostate.

Researchers Take DIM View of Prostate Cancer

It turns out that nature has kindly provided us with a nutritional remedy for this problem, in the form of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Certain compounds derived from these veggies are known to be strongly anticarcinogenic. The best known compound is indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which offers other health benefits as well (see the news brief on page 19). Closely related to I3C is diindolylmethane (DIM), which consists of two I3C molecules chemically bonded to each other to form a dimer, or “double molecule.”


There was a dramatic effect
of the DIM treatment: the
tumors ended up about 60%
smaller in weight and volume.


Researchers in Israel injected 6-week-old male mice subcutaneously in the flank with mouse prostate cancer cells in order to induce the growth of tumors that could easily be observed and measured.2 After 2 weeks, they began a treatment program using DIM. Three times a week for 3 weeks (10 times in all), the researchers injected the experimental mice in the abdomen with DIM suspended in corn oil; control mice received injections of corn oil only. The quantities of DIM used were 2.5, 5, and 10 mg per kg of body weight. For a 75-kg (165-lb) human, these amounts correspond to 188, 375, and 750 mg, respectively.

DIM Inhibits Tumor Growth

The results showed a dramatic effect of the DIM treatment: the tumors grew much more slowly in the treated mice than in the control mice, ending up about 60% smaller in weight and volume. The 5- and 10-mg/kg dosages were the most effective (about equally so), but the 2.5-mg/kg dosage was not far behind. None of the three dosages had any effect on body weight (aside from the tumor) or on kidney or liver function, indicating that DIM at these concentrations is probably nontoxic and safe for use.

From laboratory examinations of the tumor cells, the researchers deduced that DIM acted by inhibiting cell proliferation through a decrease in DNA synthesis, accompanied by the induction of apoptosis, also known as programmed cell suicide. They concluded,

The results of our study . . . suggest that cruciferous vegetables and their indolic compounds, I3C and DIM, may constitute an important anticarcinogenic and therapeutic food derivative against this type of cancer, offering natural compounds with minimal toxic effects in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Eat Your Supplements

The results described above are in accord with similar evidence for the anticancer properties of I3C and DIM found in other studies.* Both of these highly beneficial compounds are available as nutritional supplements, which is a more convenient and reliable way to obtain optimal amounts of them than eating cruciferous vegetables every day.


*See “Achieving a Healthy Sex-Hormone Ratio” (October 2000), “The Gene Connection in Preventing Estrogen-Related Cancers” (March 2001), and “Fighting Prostate Cancer with Broccoli Compounds” (September 2003).


References

  1. Cookson MS. Prostate cancer: screening and early detection. Cancer Control 2001;8:133-40.
  2. Nachshon-Kedmi M, Fares FA, Yannai S. Therapeutic activity of 3,3’-diindolylmethane on prostate cancer in an in vivo model. Prostate 2004;61: 153-60.

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