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Sulforaphane and Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Dear Friend,

Research from Burnett et al. (2017) shows how standard taxane-based treatment for TNBC (triple negative breast cancer) increases inflammatory cytokine secretion as well as increased production of cancer stem cells (CSC).  Anti-CSC compound sulforaphane inhibits NF-κB transcriptional activity and reverses taxane-induced CSCs enrichment. 

This means that a combination of taxane-based treatment with sulforaphane can greatly reduce primary tumor volume and secondary tumor formation from stem cells (Burnett et al., 2017).


Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) typically exhibits rapid progression, high mortality and faster relapse rates relative to other breast cancer subtypes. In this report we examine the combination of taxanes (paclitaxel or docetaxel) with a breast cancer stem cell (CSC)-targeting agent sulforaphane for use against TNBC. We demonstrate that paclitaxel or docetaxel treatment induces IL-6 secretion and results in expansion of CSCs in TNBC cell lines. Conversely, sulforaphane is capable of preferentially eliminating CSCs, by inhibiting NF-κB p65 subunit translocation, down regulating p52 and consequent downstream transcriptional activity.  Sulforaphane also reverses taxane-induced aldehyde dehydrogenase-positive (ALDH+) cell enrichment, and dramatically reduces the size and number of primary and secondary mammospheres formed. In vivoin an advanced treatment orthotopic mouse xenograft model together with extreme limiting dilution analysis (ELDA), the combination of docetaxel and sulforaphane exhibits a greater reduction in primary tumor volume and significantly reduces secondary tumor formation relative to either treatment alone. These results suggest that treatment of TNBCs with cytotoxic chemotherapy would be greatly benefited by the addition of sulforaphane to prevent expansion of and eliminate breast CSCs.


Burnett, J. P., Lim, G., Li, Y., Shah, R. B., Lim, R., Paholak, H. J., ... & Zhang, T. (2017). Sulforaphane enhances the anticancer activity of taxanes against triple negative breast cancer by killing cancer stem cells. Cancer Letters, 394, 52-64.

Sincerely yours,


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