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Getting your greens in pill form

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australian scientists have developed a pill equivalent to three servings of brocolli they hope will boost the fight against colon cancer.

Human trials of the pill, which contains a key cancer-fighting compound found in broccoli and brussel sprouts, are set to begin by mid-2001.

A study showed two compounds found in the vegetables helped lower the risk of colon cancer.

While the activity of the two compounds, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, is well known, scientists at Australia's University of Newcastle will be the first to conduct human trials of a pill form of one of the compounds, I3C.

It takes about 300 grams -- or three servings of broccoli or brussel sprouts a day -- to boost the body's protective enzymes to help fight the growth of cancer cells.

Three-month trial

The Australian study will replace the plateful of broccoli with one 150 mg pill containing the I3C compound, which works by stimulating a de-toxifying enzyme in the body.

University of Newcastle researchers led by Allan Spigelman hope separate trials with the second compound, sulforaphane, will follow.

"This is just adding a little bit more to the jigsaw puzzle of how these compounds work to fight cancer," Spigelman told Reuters.

Volunteers taking part in the three-month trial will be tested to see how the broccoli concentrate affects the level of the protective enzyme in their blood.

If the enzyme can be "switched on" by taking the I3C supplement, people at risk of colon cancer may have a new way to protect themselves, Spigelman said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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University of Newcastle (Australia)
Colon Cancer Alliance

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