Will Soy Beat Cancer?

An experiment conducted by a group of researchers from Northwestern University showed for the first time that an antioxidant present in soybeans was able to reduce the rate of metastases in mice bearing prostate cancer. The amount of the antioxidant given to the mice was not higher than the amount humans can achieve by maintaining a Soy-rich diet.
Dr. Raymond C. Bergan (Credit: Northwestern University)
Dr. Raymond C. Bergan
(Credit: Northwestern
University)

An antioxidant known as genistein was previously shown to force cells to adhere to each other. Genistein was previously investigated using prostate cancer cells cultures. When genistein was introduced to the cultures, the researchers noticed that the cells grouped together. In other words, the cancer cells avoided detaching from the main tumor in the presence of genistein, resulting in a reduced risk of metastases formation.

Mice bearing prostate cancer showed a highly decreased amount of lung metastases when treated with genistein. The mice were split into two groups. One group was given genistein in their chow, while the other group did not receive genistein and was used as a control group. The scientists implanted an aggressive form of prostate cancer cells in the mice, and measured the appearance of metastases in the mice’s lungs. The overall effect of the genistein on the mice was amazing- the scientists found that it reduced lung metastases by 96%. Although the results are promising, this research can not assure that the effect of genistein will be similar in humans.

 soy beans
Soybeans to fight cancer

The amount of genistein in the mice’s blood was similar to the amount expected to be found in the bloodstream of a person maintaining a Soy-rich diet. Although the phenomenon observed in mice is possible in humans, it will be necessary to conduct a clinical trial on humans in order to determine whether genistein will be able to help us in our fight against cancer. Further research will be conducted in order to try and reveal the mechanism through which genistein prevents the cancer cells from detaching from the main tumor and stopping them from causing metastases.

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Preventing metastases is a major goal of current cancer research. You can read about a recent development aiding in early detection of metastases here.

Further information on the research carried out by Northwestern University scientists can be found on the website of the American Association for Cancer Research.